A new four-component 'polypill' could save the lives of 200,000 people per year, scientists in the UK suggest.
Published in the scientific journal PloS One, a study shows that the pill can dramatically reduce the risks of heart attack or stroke, the most common causes of death worldwide.
The polypill, a tri-layered tablet, contains three blood pressure lowering medicines and a statin for lowering cholesterol.
In the study, the pill was given to people aged 50 years and over who had no history of cardiovascular disease. They experienced a 12% reduction in blood pressure and a 39% reduction in LDL cholesterol, achieving levels typical of a 20 year-old.
Professor Sir Nicholas Wald, director of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Queen Mary, University of London, is the inventor of the polypill.
He said, "We now need public, professional and regulatory support to make the polypill available without delay; the net benefits are too large to ignore - even if only 50% of people aged 50 or more took the polypill, about 94,000 fatal or non-fatal heart attacks and strokes would be prevented each year in the UK."
Dr David Wald, principal investigator of the randomised, placebo-controlled trial, added, "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."
This is the first trial in people selected on the basis of age alone without the need for a medical examination or tests - setting the scene for the prevention of first heart attacks and strokes in the general population.
Image: Those who benefit from the polypill could gain 11 years of life without a heart attack. Credit: FreeDigitalPhotos.net