March 31, 2009 in Nation/World

Multidrug heart pill shows promise in study

John Fauber Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Take a little aspirin, add one part low-dose cholesterol medicine and three parts low-dose blood pressure medicine. Put it in a single pill and give to everybody over the age of 45. What do you get?

Doctors don’t know for sure. But the emerging dream of a cheap polypill that could be used to reduce heart attacks and strokes in vast numbers of “healthy” people moved one step closer to reality Monday.

The first large study of a single pill made up of a brew of generic drugs showed that blood pressure and cholesterol were reduced enough to theoretically cut heart disease by 60 percent and strokes by 50 percent among middle-aged people, said lead author Salim Yusuf of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario.

The study was done in India. It involved more than 2,000 men and women age 45 and older who did not have known heart disease but had one risk factor. They were given various combinations of medications, ranging from a five-drug concoction known as the Polycap to single drugs for blood pressure and cholesterol, as well as aspirin.

The five-drug combination reduced systolic blood pressure (the upper reading) by about 7 points. LDL cholesterol (the bad kind) was reduced by 27 points. On average, those who got the Polycap also saw their heart rates drop by seven beats a minute.

The study’s results were presented at the American College of Cardiology annual meeting Monday and published online in the medical journal The Lancet.

Doctors not associated with the research said the results are promising and show that such a pill could dramatically reduce cardiovascular disease in people who often don’t get treated – those who have low to intermediate short-term risk, but are at high lifetime risk.

“It’s a great idea,” said Rob Panther, a cardiologist and lipid specialist at ProHealth Care Medical Associates in Waukesha, Wis. “I wonder why it has taken so long to come out with something like this.”

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