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5 heart medications packed into 1 pill

March 31, 2009 1:45:20 PM PDT
Could a single pill significantly reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke? Some of the nation's leading heart doctors are encouraged by the results of studies of the so-called Polypill.

The pill, which is not yet available to the public, combines five common heart medications: three drugs that lower blood pressure, one drug that lowers cholesterol, and aspirin, which prevents blood clots.

"This pill has the potential to be a blockbuster," says Dr. James Stein of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine. "It's estimated that 60 or even 70 million Americans would qualify for the treatment."

In a recent clinical study, patients taking one Polypill a day saw reductions in blood pressure, cholesterol, and harmful blood clotting after just twelve weeks.

"The key here is that we're using low doses of proven, safe medications," says Dr. James Stein, also of the Wisconsin School of Medicine.

Preliminary estimates suggest the Polypill could reduce heart disease risk by up to 62 percent and strokes by 48 percent.

It also offers the promise of convenience to patients such as Joanne Steo, who now takes five separate medications. "I would be ecstatic," Steo said, "I really would. It would be great not to have to say, 'Did I remember to take this? Did I remember to take that?'"

And because the five drugs used in the single pill are all generics, the cost could be less than $1 a day.

Some health experts worry that by making heart disease prevention easier, it could have the unintended effect of discouraging people from taking the necessary steps to maintain a healthy life style.

"We need to do appropriate diet and exercise in order to keep the blood vessels healthy and not put too much burden on the heart from excess weight," said Christopher Cannon of Brigham & Women's Hospital.


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