Daily pill shown to reduce heart risk
A SINGLE polypill given daily to people aged 50 and over to reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke achieved large reductions in blood cholesterol and blood pressure, the main causes of the two diseases, according to research published last night.
In the first trial of the four-component pill in people selected on age alone, participants’ blood pressure was reduced by 12 per cent while the level of bad cholesterol in their blood went down by 39 per cent. The polypill used in the trial contains a cholesterol-lowering agent and, in low dosage, drugs that lower blood pressure. Another version undergoing separate research contains aspirin in addition to the blood pressure and cholesterol drugs.
Researchers led by Dr David Wald of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Barts and the London of Medicine and Dentistry carried out a randomised placebo-controlled crossover trial in which each person took the polypill for three months and a placebo (dummy pill) for three months.
The crossover design and a high level of adherence to treatment by participants meant the trial produced accurate and reliable results, the researchers said.
“The health implications of our results are large. If people took the polypill from age 50, an estimated 28 per cent 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,” said Dr Wald.
A possible weakness of the trial, results of which were published in the open-access journal PLoS One last night, is its relatively small number of participants. Some 84 out of 86 people completed both sections of the crossover study. The researchers did not specify a “number needed to treat”.
However, it is the first trial involving people selected on the basis of age alone without the need for medical examination or tests, setting the scene for the prevention of first heart attacks and strokes in the general population without requiring medical examination or special tests.