A single pill for heart disease prevention? from the Harvard Women's Health Watch

It isn't unusual for people with heart disease to take several pills a day—aspirin, a statin to lower cholesterol, a couple to control blood pressure, and maybe a beta blocker to slow the heart rate. Keeping track of all these drugs is a feat of memory and organization. But what if you could accomplish all this with a single pill? The December 2012 Harvard Women's Health Watch looks at the "polypill," a combination pill that's been in development for several years, and that could be available in the not-too-distant future.

Taking several medications in one pill could improve the percentage of people who take their medicines as prescribed. Right now that percentage is "unbelievably bad," says Dr. Christopher Cannon, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and a cardiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital. "The concept is that simplicity will make it easier to take the medicines," he says.

Polypill studies so far have been very promising. For example, The Indian Polycap Study (TIPS) found that combining five drugs—three blood pressure medicines, a statin, and aspirin—in one pill significantly reduced blood pressure and harmful LDL cholesterol.

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