U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

NIH: Fogarty International Center NIH: Fogarty International Center
Advancing Science for Global Health
Advancing Science for Global Health
Home > News > Global Health Matters > Global Health Matters Sep/Oct 2011 > Inexpensive polypills may add years for heart patients Print

COVID-19: COVID-19 public health information from the US CDC | COVID-19 research information from the US NIH | Español | COVID-19 resources for global health researchers

Inexpensive polypills may add years for heart patients

September / October 2011 | Volume 10, Issue 5

Handfull of small pink and cream colored pills on black background
Photo courtesy of
Imperial College London

For just pennies a dose, combination drugs known as "polypills" may add two years to the life expectancy of people at risk of heart disease in developing countries. A polypill is a combination drug containing multiple active ingredients, usually four or more.

Fogarty grantee Dr. Thomas A. Gaziano and his colleagues studied the cost-effectiveness of two different polypills in six low- and middle-income regions. (Read more about his work reducing the guesswork and cost of rating heart disease.)

For primary prevention, they modeled the impact of a combination of aspirin, a calcium-channel blocker, an angiotensin-converting-enzyme inhibitor and a statin. For secondary prevention, they assessed the same combination of drugs but with a beta blocker instead of the calcium-channel blocker.

They calculated these approaches could result in a two-year gain in life expectancy. In addition, regimens of aspirin, two blood-pressure drugs and a statin could halve the risk of death from cardiovascular disease in high-risk patients.

The results are extremely significant for developing countries, which bear 80 percent of the cardiovascular disease burden. Gaziano concluded that this approach is cost-effective - according to WHO recommendations - and that developing countries should encourage the use of inexpensive polypills for both primary and secondary prevention.

The broad concept of such a therapy for cardiovascular disease has existed for decades. A 2003 article in the British Medical Journal coined the term polypill and proposed the concept of combining six medications that have long been used to treat cardiovascular disease.

More Information

To view Adobe PDF files, download current, free accessible plug-ins from Adobe's website.