[an error occurred while processing this directive]
BBC News
watch One-Minute World News
Last Updated: Thursday, 5 May, 2005, 23:44 GMT 00:44 UK
'Miracle heart pill would work'
Image of a pill
The "polypill" would contain a combination of heart drugs
A "miracle pill" that combines different heart drugs would save thousands of lives, research suggests.

A Nottingham University study of over 13,000 patients found a pill bringing together three drugs extended life in people with a history of heart disease.

Two years ago, UK experts suggested a six-in-one "polypill" could cut the risk of heart attack and stroke by 80% among people aged 55 and older.

The latest findings are published in the British Medical Journal.

The polypill

The researchers looked at combinations of cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins, aspirin, beta-blockers and another type of blood pressure lowering drug called an angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor.

The research presents a strong argument for giving a combination of existing medicines
Belinda Linden of the British Heart Foundation
They followed what happened to 13,029 GP patients who were diagnosed with heart disease and were taking different combinations of these drugs over seven years.

Overall, 2,266 patients died by the end of the study.

The drugs combination that appeared to improve survival chances the most - by about 83% - was of statins, aspirin and beta-blockers.

Adding in an ACE inhibitor did bring extra benefits.

Single therapies - beta-blockers alone or ACE inhibitors alone - conferred the least benefit, cutting death risk by only about 20%.

Primary prevention

Because the study only looked at patients with heart disease, the researchers said their results should not be taken to mean all people aged over 55 should be given a polypill.

But Professor Nicholas Wald, of the Wolson Institute of Preventative Medicine, said there was no reason why a similar preventive effect should not be seen when the combination was used as a treatment before disease was present.

"A person's age - for example, over 55 - as well as previous disease, should be used to decide who should go on these drugs."

Obesity and inactivity

Belinda Linden, of the British Heart Foundation, said the research presented a strong argument for a combined pill.

"There is no doubt that the idea of combining three or four medicines together would make them easier to take," she said.

"But whether we like it or not, the rising tide of obesity and inactivity cannot be ignored and advances in medicines should not be a licence for people to continue to lead unhealthy lifestyles."

The Stroke Association urged major funding bodies and the NHS to support future trials into cardiovascular disease treatments.

'Miracle heart pill' for all
26 Jun 03 |  Health
Aspirin-a-day call for over 50s
13 Apr 05 |  Health

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites


News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East | South Asia
UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health
Have Your Say | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific