Polypill Research: A Single Pill Protects Against Heart Disease

Image via BBC NewsImage via BBC News It won't replace good diet and an exercise routine, but it can do the work of  five other pills to ward off heart disease and other life threatening diseases caused by high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Yet, not so fast...

Varieties of the "polypill" have been undergoing clinical research for several years but, for some reason (you can speculate on that), progress on the development was "mooted" more than five years ago. However, recent clinical trials in India have renewed interest in a preventive pill to guard against diseases that evolve from high blood pressure and high cholesterol.

The Indian study used five active, widely available, pharmaceuticals in its polypill: aspirin, a cholesterol-lowering statin, three different blood pressure-lowering drugs, plus folic acid. The pill used, a "Polycap" made by Cadila Pharmaceuticals, could potentially cut the incidence of strokes and heart attacks in middle-aged people in half; and, on a global scale, save millions of lives.

The 2,053 people studied did not have heart disease, but had one "warning" factor in their histories; high cholesterol, high blood pressure, smoking, family history... Taking the tablet resulted in almost universal lowering of cholesterol and blood pressure measurements in the group.

Researchers, still hesitant to propose the polypill, say more research is needed, particularly in the area of mortality, and that any polypill would not be available to the public for at least five years. Representative spokespersons from various health and disease organizations interviewed by BBC News were very cautious in their comments, stating warnings such as, "Eating healthily and taking regular exercise are proven ways to lower high blood pressure - and have many other health benefits too - and there is a danger that these lifestyle factors could be overlooked in favour of 'popping a pill'."

I don't know about you, but I think I could be trusted to take a pill and eat right and exercise.