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Aug 08, 2014

All-in-One Pill to Prevent Heart Disease?

A polypill to prevent heart disease has the potential to save millions of lives, according to experts.

An all-in-one pill to prevent heart disease may be somewhere in our distant future, according to a paper recently published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death around the world, causing 17.3 million deaths a year. Although we have a number of medications proven to reduce risk of heart disease, many patients aren’t getting the treatment they need to prevent potentially life-threatening events, like heart attack and stroke. That’s why some experts propose the development of a single, all-in-one pill that could help millions of individuals reduce their cardiovascular risk across the board.

The idea of a “magic” pill, referred to by experts as a polypill, has become increasingly popular in recent years as a way to prevent heart events in high risk individuals. Patients with a history of heart disease, like heart attack and stroke survivors, are at significantly increased risk for a future heart event. And while they have much to gain from medications like blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering drugs, few get the medication they need. In fact, a recent study showed that nearly half of high-risk patients failed to properly adhere to their heart medications.

By creating one pill to address the most common causes of heart events, like high blood pressure and high cholesterol, experts believe that we can improve both medication adherence and outcomes. If we make it easier for patients to take effective medications, the more closely patients will adhere to medications and the better the treatment will work. Of course, authors admit that the idea of a single pill to prevent heart disease is still new and requires further investigation. But with support from the World Heart Federation and other health authorities, experts believe that development of such a pill has the potential to change the face of health care across the world.
Read the full study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Questions for You to Consider

  • What does "medication adherence" mean?

  • Medication adherence means taking the proper dose of a drug the correct number of times each day and never adjusting or skipping doses without being advised to do so by a physician. Failing to properly adhere to medications could render drugs ineffective or actually harm the body.
  • What are the most common medications prescribed to prevent heart disease?
  • Cardiovascular medications are often prescribed to patients at increased risk for heart disease or with a history of heart events, like heart attack and stroke. The most common medications used to reduce cardiovascular risk include cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins, blood-pressure lowering drugs and medications that help prevent blood clots, called antithrombotic agents. Depending on a patient’s medical history, they may take any combination of these drugs to prevent a future heart event.

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