September 06, 2013

Beat multiple heart diseases – now with one pill!

For the first time ever, doctors and researchers have come up with a single pill for all cardiovascular diseases including high blood pressure and vulnerability to stroke. Christened the polypill, the clinical trials have proved successful according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medicine Association.

The pill is specifically meant for patients suffering from cardiovascular disease or heart disease. A lot of Indian institutes including AIIMS, PGI (Chandigarh), George Institute for Global Health – (India) worked together on the study which was planned by London’s Imperial College. The drug was made by Dr Reddy’s Laboratories and funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Programme. The pill promises the use of FDCs (fixed-drug combinations) and will markedly raise the rate of compliance and efficacy of medicines prescribed to patients who tend to forget their medication. We spoke to Dr Nilesh Gautam, Interventional Cardiologist, Asian Heart Institute, about the drug and what this development means for Indian heart patients:

Q: What is the polypill?

Dr Gautam: Polypill is basically a combination of drugs. The one available in the Indian market contains three drugs – one which is a blood thinner, one to lower cholesterol and one to reduce the blood pressure. This combination is what is recommended by the British and the American Heart Association.

Question: Is it truly a better option than the original multi-pill option?

Dr Gautam: Yes, it definitely is, and it is an extremely useful drug, because the compliance of the patient increases. By that I mean that if the patient has to take four drugs in a day, he/she is likely to forget to take one tablet or maybe two at some point in time. Since the polypill combines three or four drugs, the patient only has to take one drug and doesn’t forget. This helps increase compliance which in turn increases the efficacy of the drug.

Q: What happens is that drugs normally are produced abroad, and do not specifically cater to the Indian body. Is the polypill applicable to Indians?

Yes, it very much is. Indian companies and MNC’s manufacture it in doses which are suitable for our population, which is slightly less in weight as compared to what is required by the western population. We also use the polypill in conjunction with other drugs. For example, a patient requires 20 mg of atorvastatin (a drug to lower cholesterol) but the polypill only has 10 mg of the atorvastatin so we usually prescribe 10 mg more along with the polypill.

Q: How does it work? Don’t the drugs interfere with each other?

Dr Gautam: No, they don’t. They work together and ensure that their releases are such that their absorption into the system is in a phased manner and their action does not bring out their side effects, rather they enhance each other action.

Q: Would you use it for your current patients? Are you using it? Dr Gautam: Yes, we are using it on quite a number of our patients, especially cardiac patients. It is very useful for those who have heart disease and are diabetic. Usually such patients have to take eight to ten pills in a day, if they take the polypill we are reducing the number of pills they have to remember to take down to maybe six or seven. On an average the number of medicines a patient has to take is cut down by fifty per cent. This increases the efficacy of the drugs and ensures that the patient does not forget.

Q: What are the side effects of this drug?

Dr Gautam: There are no special side effects due to the combination per se, although the side effects of the individual drugs will be present.

Q: When will the polypill be available in the market?

Dr Gautam: It is already available in India, especially for patients suffering from heart disease, a combination of two or three drugs of various classes are available.

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