One Pill to Simplify Heart Disease Prevention

‘Polypill’ helps patients follow medication regimen

mystery pill in packaging

Make medications easier to take, and people will take them.

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That’s the idea behind the “polypill,” a single pill containing a combination of medications.

Most patients with cardiovascular disease don’t take their recommended medications long-term. What if their medicines for coronary disease and stroke were incorporated into one fixed-dose combination pill?

The idea of a ‘superpill’

A new study from Imperial College London has found that people who were given a single pill containing more than one heart disease prevention medication were better at taking their medication than those assigned to take multiple pills.

Richard Krasuski, MD, did not take part in the study but is a cardiologist at Cleveland Clinic. He says that the idea sounds appealing.

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“The theory of a polypill, or a superpill, is that you can start patients on one pill containing all of the medications that we think are going to improve the health of the blood vessels, and that patients would fare better because of this,” says Dr. Krasuski.

Study finds better compliance with one pill

The Imperial College London researchers split more than 2,000 people with cardiovascular disease into two groups.

One group was given a polypill with high blood pressure, cholesterol and platelet medications. The other received their usual, multiple medications.

At the end of the study, 86 percent of the participants in the polypill group were keeping up with their medications compared to 65 percent in the multiple-pill group.

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Researchers noted that not only did compliance improve, but so did blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

But, one size doesn’t always fit all

Though Dr. Krasuski says the idea of having one pill to treat heart-related illnesses sounds like a good one, it’s not always the case that one size — or pill — would fit all.

“It’s like shopping for clothes. Not all the same sizes for clothes are going to fit each person the same way. It’s the same with medications,” says Dr. Krasuski. “We find that not everyone is going to require the same dose of medication. Not everyone can take one pill that meets all their needs.”

“To get the correct dose for each patient sometimes you just have to take separate pills,” he says.

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