It’s good news for all, especially for those with lower incomes or living in poor areas and countries.
A combination of four drugs, including two blood pressure drugs, a cholesterol medicine, and aspirin, which are consumed daily, can cut the risk of heart attacks, strokes and heart failure, according to a large study.
Although the combination is effective, it may be too expensive or too hard to stick with taking so many drugs for lots of people. So doctors came up with the idea of a polypill.
A previous study in India found it lowered cholesterol and blood pressure, and a recent new study has provided stronger evidence by tracking heart attacks, strokes and other problems on a large scale of people.
The study recruited about 6,800 people in Iran, aged 50-75, with or without previous heart problems. All the participants were suggested to keep healthy lifestyles and half of them were given polypills.
The study lasted for 5 years. 5 years later, 6% of those in the pill group had suffered a heart attack, stroke or heart failure, while 9% of the others suffered from the diseases, which means the polypills can lower the risk of 34%.
People who took the polypill most faithfully, at least 70% of the time, had even bigger reductions in heart risks.
According to the study, the polypill could lower cholesterol effectively, thus helped prevent health problems. Blood pressure didn’t significantly change.
Some participants, those who took polypills which were switched to another version that substituted one of the drugs, developed a cough as a side effect.
"This is an important step in the right direction," said Dr. Salim Yusuf who leads another polypill study expected to finish next summer. "This could be used in every sensible country where we want to save lives."
According to Tom Marshall, one of the lead researchers, for people who have had good health care condition, the polypill may not help that much. “But if you’re in a system where people don’t have great access, then this is a significant advantage.” Marshall said.
The polypill still needs to be tested to ensure its effectiveness for different populations, whose biology are different. But hopefully, it will be widely applied in the next few years.