Polypill heart trial commences could it be a cheap cure-all?

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The world’s first trial of a low-cost combination ‘polypill’ to prevent heart attacks is about to begin in Sydney—a move that could eventually see people, middle-aged and older, medicated to reduce their chance of disease, even if they do not have high blood pressure, raised cholesterol or other obvious risk factors.

The polypill has been touted as a cheap way to cut the number of deaths from heart diseases, but pharmaceutical companies have been reluctant to take on the project as the inexpensive drugs involved provided no financial incentive, the New Scientist reported.

Led by Anthony Rodgers, MD, at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, a team has begun recruiting 700 volunteers in six countries for a pilot trial of a polypill, manufactured by Dr. Reddy's Pharmaceutical Company of Hyderabad, India.

Dr. Reddy’s Red Heart Pill, which costs just $1 for a month's supply, blends blood-thinning aspirin, a cholesterol-lowering statin, an ACE inhibitor and a thiazide to lower blood pressure. Trials enrolling thousands of people could start next year.

The polypill is aimed at reducing the risk of heart disease and stroke in poor and rich countries alike, however, its use will vary around the world, said Simon Thom, MD, of Imperial College London, who is running trials in the U.K.

Thorn advocates distributing the pill "almost blind" to everyone older than 55, however, he acknowledged that countries where people have better access to doctors and drugs are unlikely to adopt the one-size-fits-all approach.

The Wellcome Trust in London and the British Heart Foundation is funding the study.