Evidence points to potential benefits of polypill for heart health

April 21, 2014 by Erin White, Northwestern University

(Medical Xpress)—Taking one pill instead of three could be a powerful ally to prevent cardiovascular disease, according to a new Cochrane systematic review of the latest research on polypills from a team of scientists at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, Warwick Medical School and Northwestern Medicine.

A polypill typically combines an aspirin, statin and at least one into a single pill. The idea of putting multiple drugs into a single pill is not new; it is done in HIV combination therapy, for example. However, polypills have the potential for widespread use and could potentially help prevent heart attacks and stroke while helping people live longer. Such drug combinations are not yet on the market in the U.S. or the UK but can be bought online.

The review included analysis of 7,047 patients in nine randomized controlled trials from around the world from 2009 to 2013 and is the largest and most comprehensive review of polypill literature to date. The findings were published April 16 in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews.

Scientists found that the combination therapy—taking one pill instead of three separate pills—made it easier for people to adhere to a treatment plan. In one large study, polypills were shown to improve adherence by 33 percent compared with those who underwent usual care for prevention, the scientists said.

In several of the latest studies, the scientists found that a polypill lowered systolic blood pressure and total cholesterol but the overall effects of a polypill may be similar to usual care. Adverse events were more common in people treated with a polypill but there was no strong evidence of a difference in serious adverse events between those taking a polypill and those on placebo or control.

"We know that half of the people around the world who have had a heart attack or stroke take zero medicines after the incident," said Mark Huffman, M.D., corresponding author of the review. "A single polypill could not only make it easier for patients to take their medications, but could also provide the maximal benefit from a single pill. However, there is not going to be one magical for everybody. I think we can expect different polypills with different doses of medication."

Huffman is an assistant professor in preventive medicine and medicine-cardiology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a cardiologist at Northwestern Memorial Hospital. He is also the coordinating editor of the Cochrane Heart Group Satellite United States, which is based at the Feinberg School.

"Cardiovascular diseases, including heart attacks and strokes, are the leading cause of death and disability worldwide," said Shah Ebrahim, study co-author and professor of public health at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine. "In the Britain, they cause about a third of all deaths—more than 180,000 each year. Lowering and cholesterol levels by introduction of a polypill could simplify treatment, improve adherence and thereby save lives and reduce health care costs."

Huffman said the polypill has the potential to be added to the World Health Organization's "Model List of Essential Medicines" in the future, maybe as soon as next year.

"The WHO has already named the polypill one of the 'top five best buys' for preventing chronic diseases globally, and while more research is needed, the has the potential to avoid millions of premature deaths and related morbidity from cardiovascular disease at low cost," he said.

Explore further: Multi-drug pills help people stick to heart disease prevention regimens

More information: "Fixed-dose combination therapy for the prevention of cardiovascular disease." Authors include: de Cates AN, Farr MRB, Wright N, Jarvis MC, Rees K, Ebrahim S, Huffman MD. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2014, Issue 4. Art. No.: CD009868. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD009868.pub2.

Related Stories

Multi-drug pills help people stick to heart disease prevention regimens

September 3, 2013
People are much more likely to take preventive medicines if they're combined in one pill, an international study has found. The findings are published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Combination pill could be cost effective in preventing heart disease

January 16, 2013
(Medical Xpress)—A single combination pill could reduce cardiovascular disease and stroke in Latin Americans by up to 21 percent at a cost of about $35 per quality adjusted life year gained, according to a study led by ...

First Polypill trial in people selected on age alone (50 and over) shows substantial health benefit

July 18, 2012
Results of a randomised trial carried out by academics at Queen Mary, University of London and published today in PLoS One [1] show that a four-component Polypill given to people aged 50 and over to reduce their risk of heart ...

People more likely to take heart medicines in combo pill

November 6, 2012
People are much more likely to take heart medicines if they're combined in one pill, according to a late-breaking clinical trial presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2012.

Recommended for you

A nanoparticle inhalant for treating heart disease

January 18, 2018
A team of researchers from Italy and Germany has developed a nanoparticle inhalant for treating people suffering from heart disease. In their paper published in the journal Science Translational Medicine, the group describes ...

Starting periods before age of 12 linked to heightened risk of heart disease and stroke

January 15, 2018
Starting periods early—before the age of 12—is linked to a heightened risk of heart disease and stroke in later life, suggests an analysis of data from the UK Biobank study, published online in the journal Heart.

'Decorated' stem cells could offer targeted heart repair

January 10, 2018
Although cardiac stem cell therapy is a promising treatment for heart attack patients, directing the cells to the site of an injury - and getting them to stay there - remains challenging. In a new pilot study using an animal ...

Two simple tests could help to pinpoint cause of stroke

January 10, 2018
Detecting the cause of the deadliest form of stroke could be improved by a simple blood test added alongside a routine brain scan, research suggests.

Exercise is good for the heart, high blood pressure is bad—researchers find out why

January 10, 2018
When the heart is put under stress during exercise, it is considered healthy. Yet stress due to high blood pressure is bad for the heart. Why? And is this always the case? Researchers of the German Centre for Cardiovascular ...

Heart-muscle patches made with human cells improve heart attack recovery

January 10, 2018
Large, human cardiac-muscle patches created in the lab have been tested, for the first time, on large animals in a heart attack model. This clinically relevant approach showed that the patches significantly improved recovery ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Lex Talonis
not rated yet Apr 21, 2014
What a crock of shit.

80% of all disease is directly based upon the foods that people eat, and the exercise they take.

Eat healthy and exercise much and 80% of all diseases - gone.

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.