All-in-one 'polypill' could save lives, says report


An all-in-one “polypill” with the potential to save many tens of thousands of lives each year in the UK could be available in less than two years.

Results from a ground-breaking trial showed that the four-medicine pill dramatically reduces major risk factors for heart attack and stroke.

In a group of healthy individuals aged 50 and over, it cut levels of blood pressure and cholesterol to those typical of a 20-year-old.

If everyone in the UK from a similar age group took the pill, the findings suggest an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 deaths would be prevented.

The number of averted non-fatal cases, including many involving life-changing disablement, could be double this figure.

Experts called for the polypill to be made generally available to the UK population "without delay".

Realistically it could take another one to two years for all the regulatory hurdles to be overcome, according to study leader Dr David Wald, from Queen Mary, University of London.

The polypill is a layered tablet containing three blood pressure-lowering drugs and a cholesterol-lowering statin.

Dr Wald, from Queen Mary, University of London, said: "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."

The findings were published in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE.

Even before the pill was manufactured, it was predicted to have a major impact on population health.

Those forecasts have now been borne out by the first randomised study of the pill's effects on people with no history of heart disease.

A group of 84 men and women aged 50 and over were randomly given the polypill or an inactive "dummy" tablet for a period of three months.

They then switched treatments for another three months so the effects of both were seen in each patient.

Taking the polypill led to a 12% lowering of blood pressure, and a 39% reduction in levels of "bad" cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

The cost of the prescription-only pill is expected to be no more than a few hundred pounds a year.

Dr Wald said: "With the results of this trial we do have a pretty firm platform to move to the next stage to make it available and accessible, so when people hit a certain age they can choose if it's something they want or not.

"When something like this is developed it should be made available as quickly as possible. How people pay for it is a judgment society needs to make."

He predicted that between 100,000 and 200,000 deaths - and twice as many non-fatal events - could be prevented if everyone in the UK over the age of 50 took the pill.

His father, Professor Sir Nicholas Wald, the pill's inventor, had a more conservative estimate but still envisioned many thousands of lives being saved.

Sir Nicholas, director of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine at Queen Mary, 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 and non-fatal heart attacks and strokes would be prevented each year in the UK."

One of the trial participants was David Taylor, Professor of Pharmaceutical and Public Health Policy at University College London, who joined the calls for general access to the polypill.

"The polypill concept is a major public health advance," he said. "This study shows that it works. The polypill should be made generally available as a matter of urgency.

"I welcome the opportunity to substantially cut my risk of having a stroke or heart attack without the disempowering fuss and bother usually required to obtain preventive medicines."

However, the British Heart Foundation sounded a note of caution.

Natasha Stewart, senior cardiac nurse at the charity, said: "Research into polypills is encouraging, but there are still many questions to answer before this 'wonder drug' is prescribed by doctors.

"This research only studied a very small number of people, so we'd need to see further large-scale trials on a wider population to get more detailed results. It is also hard to say if the near-perfect adherence rate for taking the pills would be seen in real life.

"However interesting this potential new pill is, medicines are not a substitute for living a healthy lifestyle. Staying active, eating healthily and not smoking are still vital ways to help keep your heart in good shape."

The polypill used in the study contained the blood pressure drugs amlodipine, losartan and hydrochlorothiazide together with cholesterol-lowering simvastatin.

Results from an international trial of a similar polypill containing aspirin as well as blood pressure and cholesterol-reducing drugs were reported last year.

That study involved 378 people with an increased risk of heart disease, rather than average members of the public. The results suggested that long-term use of the pill could halve rates of heart disease and stroke.


New Articles
tvDownton Abbey Christmas special
Arts and Entertainment
Wolf (Nathan McMullen), Ian (Dan Starky), The Doctor (Peter Capaldi), Clara (Jenna Coleman), Santa Claus (Nick Frost) in the Doctor Who Christmas Special (BBC/Photographer: David Venni)
tvOur review of the Doctor Who Christmas Special
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Sophie Grabol and Christopher Eccleston in ‘Fortitude’
tvSo Sky Atlantic arrived in Iceland to film their new and supposedly snow-bound series 'Fortitude'...
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman as Clara Oswald in the Doctor Who Christmas special
tvForget the rumours that Clara Oswald would be quitting the Tardis
Arts and Entertainment
Japanese artist Megumi Igarashi showing a small mascot shaped like a vagina
The Queen delivers her Christmas message
newsTwitter reacts to Her Majesty's Christmas Message
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

    £20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

    Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

    £24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

    Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

    Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

    Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor


    Day In a Page

    A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

    Christmas without hope

    Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
    After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

    The 'Black Museum'

    After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

    Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
    Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

    Chilly Christmas

    Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
    Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

    'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

    Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
    Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

    Ed Balls interview

    'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
    He's behind you, dude!

    US stars in UK panto

    From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

    Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

    What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

    Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all