A UK study has shown that the use of a “polypill”, filled with 4 different medicines, has the potential to save thousands of lives. The study was performed by researchers at Queen Mary, University of London and was published in the journal PLoS ONE.
The polypill consisted of three blood pressure lowering agents amlodipine (2.5 mg), losartan (25 mg) and hydrochlorothiazide (12.5 mg) which were given at half the standard dose. The pill also contained a cholesterol lowering medicine called simvistatin (40 mg) which was given at the standard dose. Several previous studies have been done and showed the benefits of using a polypill approach however, the studies were all ruled out for one flaw or another. This study was the first of its kind as it basically focused on one group and that was people over 50 who had not reported any events of cardiovascular related diseases. 116 people were invited to participate in the study and only 86 responded.
The study was designed to give half of the participants the polypill and the other half an identical looking placebo for 12 weeks. This was a double-blind study meaning that neither the participants nor the investigators knew whether they were taking a placebo or not. After the 12 weeks were up, the participants switched to the other pill. The results of the study were pretty impressive. At the end of 12 weeks on the polypill, compared to placebo mean systolic blood pressure reduced by 12% and diastolic blood pressure by 11%. LDL cholesterol reduced by 39%! Total cholesterol, including triglycerides were significantly reduced, without consequence to HDL, the good cholesterol.
According to an article on Express.Co.Uk, Dr Wald, from Queen Mary, University of London, is quoted as saying, “The health implications of our results are large. If people took the polypill from age 50, an estimated 28% would benefit by avoiding or delaying a heart attack or stroke during their lifetime; on average, those who benefit would gain 11 years of life without a heart attack or stroke.” Not everyone is as eager to jump on the bandwagon as a BBC article reports, “The British Heart Foundation called for more research and said pills were not a substitute for a living a healthy life.” Due to regulatory hurdles, production of this wonder pill make take a couple of years, but it looks like it could be well worth the wait.