STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
People suffering from heart disease are often prescribed pills, a lot of pills - so many, in fact, that it can be a problem to take them all at the right times. The pill regimen becomes a barrier to effective treatment. So what if there was a polypill which did it all in one? NPR's Patti Neighmond reports.
PATTI NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: The point is simplicity for patients. Instead of taking multiple pills, researcher and cardiologist Daniel Munoz with Vanderbilt University Medical Center says...
DANIEL MUNOZ: They are taking one gel capsule that delivers all four of these medications in one.
NEIGHMOND: Three medications lower blood pressure. The fourth lowers cholesterol. Researchers wanted to know if this polypill would make it easier for patients to stick with a regimen of medication.
MUNOZ: Despite our advances in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease, we know that those advances haven't reached everybody.
NEIGHMOND: Especially patients who face barriers accessing medical care.
MUNOZ: Taking multiple medications can present a significant challenge and sometimes an insurmountable challenge.
NEIGHMOND: Multiple medications can mean numerous visits to the doctor and lots of blood tests. Munoz did a study of 303 adults. Most were African Americans, and most had incomes less than $15,000 a year. Half were assigned care as usual with their doctor or a health care provider. The other half took the polypill.
MUNOZ: After one year, patients in the polypill arm enjoyed lower blood pressure and better cholesterol than those in the usual care arm.
NEIGHMOND: Blood pressure dropped, on average, seven points. Cholesterol dropped 11 points.
MUNOZ: These drops in blood pressure and in cholesterol translate to approximately a 25% reduction in the risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event.
NEIGHMOND: An event like a heart attack or stroke. But can one pill work as well as four different medications carefully calibrated to each individual patient? Cardiologist Rekha Mankad with the Mayo Clinic says not necessarily.
REKHA MANKAD: That is certainly the criticism about the polypill because one size doesn't fit all. But again, something may be better than nothing.
NEIGHMOND: And for certain patients, it can make a big difference. Patti Neighmond, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.