A study conducted by doctors from Tehran University, the University of Birmingham in Britain, and other institutions suggests that a multidrug pill of generic drugs may dramatically reduce incidents of heart attacks and strokes. The study, called PolyIran, found that the heart attack rate fell by more than half among rural Iranian villagers who took the multidrug pills, also known as polypills. The results of the study have been published in The Lancet medical journal.
The researchers recruited 6,800 rural villagers aged 50 to 75 in Iran for the study, which was designed 14 years ago. The pill they were given contained a cholesterol-lowering statin, two blood-pressure drugs, and a low-dose aspirin. The participants, along with a control group, also got face-to-face advice and monthly text reminders to maintain healthful practices, such as lose weight, stop smoking, eat healthy food, and exercise. All participants were asked to return their used blister packs of pills.
More than 80 percent of the study participants took most of their pills. The study found that those assigned to take the pills had a third fewer cardiac events over five years than the control group. Those who appeared to have taken at least 70 percent of their pills had 57 percent fewer cardiac events. The rates of serious adverse events were similar in both groups.
The Iran trial was the first study of this type of multidrug pill large and long-lasting enough to measure clinical outcomes. The idea was first proposed 20 years ago but rarely tested by scientists. Advocates have estimated that widespread use of the pills could cut cardiac death rates by 60 to 80 percent.
Rates of heart disease and strokes are soaring in poor and middle-income countries around the world. Roughly 18 million people a year die of cardiovascular disease, and 80 percent of them are in poor and middle-income countries. Rising rates of rates of obesity, diabetes, tobacco use, and sedentary living have been blamed for the trend.