What is the polypill? Can it prevent or treat heart disease?
Answer From Rekha Mankad, M.D.
The term "polypill" describes a pill that contains a combination of several medications commonly used to treat heart disease and high blood pressure. Health care providers aren't yet sure what the best combination of medications is for the polypill. It will probably include low doses of these medications:
- Cholesterol-lowering medications (statins)
- Medications to make the heart beat with less force
- Medications to lower blood pressure
The polypill is still being studied. It's not currently available for sale in the United States. But studies suggest that the combined medication helps people better stick to their treatment. That's probably because it's easier to remember to take one medication than multiple ones.
The polypill also seems to be effective at lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Longer studies need to be done to show whether the combination drug will lower deaths from heart disease and stroke too.
There is some concern that taking a polypill might have more side effects than when medications are taken individually. However, there were low rates of side effects in recent clinical trials of the polypill. Possible side effects included a cough, muscle aches and stomach irritation.
One big drawback is that medication dosages can't be adjusted in a polypill. A possible fix is to have more than one type of polypill.
April 19, 2022
- Munoz D, et al. Polypill for cardiovascular disease prevention in an underserved population. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2019; doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1815359.
- Roshandel G, et al. Effectiveness of polypill for primary and secondary prevention of cardiovascular diseases (PolyIran): A pragmatic, cluster-randomised trial. The Lancet. 2019; doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(19)31791-X.
- Hennekens CH. Overview of primary prevention of coronary heart disease and stroke. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Feb. 28, 2022.
- De Cates AN, et al. Fixed-dose combination therapy for the prevention of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2017; doi:10.1002/14651858.CD009868.pub3.
- Franczyk A, et al. Embracing the polypill as a cardiovascular therapeutic: Is this the best strategy? Expert Opinion on Pharmacotherapy. 2018; doi:10.1080/14656566.2018.1532501.
- Yusuf S, et al. Polypill with or without aspirin in persons without cardiovascular disease. New England Journal of Medicine. 2021; doi:10.1056/NEJMoa2028220.