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Government starts talks on development of Polypill

The Government has opened talks on the possibility of developing a single pill that could reduce the risk of stroke and heart disease by more than 80 per cent.

Heart tsar Dr Roger Boyle held a meeting with the authors of a study that proposed combining a statin, ACE inhibitor, three blood pressure-lowering drugs, folic acid and aspirin into a single tablet called the Polypill.

The research, which has divided opinion, claimed the Polypill could prevent strokes or heart attacks in patients with established cardiovascular disease by more than 80 per cent if everyone with the condition aged 55 or over was given the drug.

Dr Boyle said there were 'clear attractions' of developing the Polypill, but the issue needed further exploration.

He added: 'There are significant clinical, practical and financial implications that need to be explored further.'

One of the lead researchers, Professor Malcolm Law, professor of epidemiology at Queen Mary University of London, said the discussions were 'fruitful' but the main problem would be potential intellectual property disputes arising from trying to make the Polypill using off-patent drugs.

'We didn't conclude they'll give us £10 million to start

trials or anything but more meetings have been planned,' he said. 'The underlying difficulty is if a pharmaceutical company can't patent it, the competition cashes in on it.'

Professor Law said he hoped the Department of Health would win over pharmaceutical companies to the idea.

However, the Polypill strategy, which was published

in the BMJ (June 28), has come under fire. Professor Tom Fahey, professor of primary care medicine at the University of Dundee, said there were too many assumptions in the analysis, and the methodological issues remained unanswered.

He said it was likely the true benefits of the pill would be 'less impressive'. He added: 'Before medicalising every adult over 55 we need a greater appreciation of potential benefits and harms.'

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