Single polypill for hypertension, high cholesterol keeps more patients on track, research shows

Americans on average are taking as many as four prescribed medications regularly. But what if treatment for some of the most common conditions, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol, was wrapped into one pill?

Cooking up a heart-healthy meal with some whole grains, omega-3s and leafy greens is what 75-year-old Ann Gwin does to keep her heart healthy.

"If you read my medical history, I sound like a train wreck," Gwin said.

Between her high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and heart disease, Gwin takes several medications.

"Some of the pills I take once a day, some I take twice a day, some pills I take two at one time and one at another time. So, it gets a little confusing sometimes," she said.

Dr. Daniel Munoz, a cardiologist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, led a study that suggests a single pill containing doses of four medications to treat high blood pressure and high cholesterol, the leading risk factors for strokes and heart attacks, can simplify the lives of those taking medications. It's called a polypill.

"If you can just remember to take that one pill a day, it gives somebody a real head start in trying to achieve a healthy life," Munoz said.

Researchers conducted a trial with 303 patients. Half of them took a polypill and the other half continued with their usual care.

At the end of the trial, the group that took the polypill was able to reduce their blood pressure and cholesterol more than the usual care group.

"We think those translate to about a 25% reduction in the risk of experiencing a stroke or a heart attack over the subsequent 10 years," said Munoz.

Gwin, who currently takes four medications just for her high blood pressure, thinks that's amazing news.

"Even if he could put some of them together, it would cut down on how many I have to keep track of," she said.

It would also help keep her health on course. Munoz said adherence, or the likelihood that someone will actually take the medication they were prescribed, was high for the polypill group at 86%.
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