An international trial was launched yesterday to establish if a one-a-day pill can cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

The "polypill" is a single tablet that combines drugs such as aspirin, a statin to lower cholesterol and blood pressure-lowering medicines. A trial in India in 2009 found that such low-cost "magic bullet" pills could halve rates of heart attacks and strokes.

The latest trial involves testing a drug called the Red Heart Pill to see how it could be used in countries such as the UK, as well as in developing nations.

Researchers are recruiting 2,000 volunteers who are at high risk of heart attack or stroke, or who have already suffered one. Related trials began earlier in the year in New Zealand and Australia and there are plans for further trials in Brazil, Canada, China and South Africa.

Professor Simon Thom, co-principal investigator on the study from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, said: "The polypill idea is really simple: make it easier for people to get the medication they need by giving them just one polypill to take each day rather than lots of different pills that may need to be taken at different times.

"It's likely that combining medications in one polypill could enable people in low-income countries to have easy access to cheap preventive medication.

"Polypills are being used successfully to treat other diseases like tuberculosis and HIV, but we don't yet know whether they could be effective in those with cardiovascular problems."