In a new study, researchers found a single pill containing low doses of three medications to treat high blood pressure and one to lower cholesterol could reduce the risk of heart disease by 25%.
The research was conducted by a team from Vanderbilt University.
“Polypills” for prevention of heart disease have previously been studied in low- and middle-income countries where other health care barriers exist.
But the U.S. study released today of mostly low income, primarily black adults from a community health center in Mobile, Alabama, sets up a conversation about how to extend these findings to other settings.
According to the team, the pill may address some of the barriers that contribute to disparities in health based on geography, socioeconomic class and other parameters that we know have existed in this country and other countries for a while now.
Despite advances in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular disease, it remains the No. 1 global killer of both men and women.
In the study, the team examined 303 adults – 96% black, 60% female and 75% with an annual income below $15,000.
Half of them assigned to take a daily polypill for 12 months and the other half assigned to continue their usual routine medical care.
Half of the study participants came from the Southern Community Cohort Study. Adherence was 86% after one year, based on pill counts.
Participants underwent a standard medical exam, blood pressure measurement, and blood cholesterol testing during their initial visit, a two-month visit, and a 12-month visit.
At the end of the year, the team found the participants who had taken the polypill had decreased blood pressure by an average of 7 mm Hg and reduced LDL cholesterol levels as compared with participants in the usual care group.
This means an estimated 25% reduction in the risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke.
The researchers think there are advantages to combining population-based strategies like the polypill with all of the virtues of precision medicine.
It is a running start for people who need access to some medical care, but precision medicine should still be used to add therapy and adjust therapy.
The lead author of the study is Thomas Wang, MD.
The study is published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
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