A daily pill providing a “four in one” medicine could prevent a third of all heart problems, according to new findings.
The so-called “poly-pill”, which is available at a low-cost, has been proposed by Iranian scientists as “an approach to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease, especially in low-income and middle-income countries”, according to the research published today in The Lancet.
It highlights the pill’s effectiveness in preventing “major cardiovascular events”, which can include heart attacks and strokes.
It contains a mixture of different medicines associated with heart-healthy effects:
Aspirin, to thin blood
A statin, to lower cholesterol
Two different drugs associated with lowering blood pressure
Some 6,800 people took place in the research which took place at more than 100 villages around Iran. Roughly half of the subjects were given the polypill and advice on how to improve their lifestyle in order to promote heart health, and the rest were simply given the lifestyle advice.
In the half (3,421) taking the pill, there were 202 cardiovascular events. In the group of 3,417 not taking the pill, there were 301 – approximately a third more.
The drug was linked to significant reductions in bad cholesterol, with a smaller effect on blood pressure.
"Given the polypill's affordability, there is considerable potential to improve cardiovascular health and to prevent the world's leading cause of death," said Dr Nizal Sarrafzadegan, of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Iran, told the BBC.
However, the drug is currently not licensed in the UK – although Professor Tom Marshall, from the University of Birmingham, said, also to the BBC, that the advantages would be be “more marginal” in the UK and other high-income countries.
While heart disease is still one of the leading causes of death worldwide, the mortality rate from these conditions has halved in the past decade in the UK according to recent research.
Findings suggest that the drop in mortality rates is largely down to the increased use of statins, medication which protects those at a high risk of developing cardiovascular disease, in addition to successful campaigns against smoking.