A cheap daily pill that combines four different drugs can help significantly cut the risk of heart disease and strokes, a study has found.
The “polypill” contains aspirin, two drugs to lower blood pressure and a statin to reduce cholesterol.
The study involved more than 6,800 people in Iran aged 50-75 – some with previous heart problems and others without.
They were all given healthy lifestyle advice but the 3,421 who took the polypill cut their risk of major cardiovascular disease by 34%.
After five years, 202 people in the polypill group had suffered a stroke or heart attack, compared with 301 in the group that had not taken it.
Researchers say that those with a history of cardiovascular disease saw a 40% risk reduction and those with previous problems 20%.
The pill’s main benefit seemed to be lowering cholesterol, blood pressure did not significantly change.
All of its ingredients are cheap generic medicines, meaning the cost of producing it is relatively low.
It is thought that by combining the drugs in one daily pill that more people are likely to take it.
The study, published in The Lancet medical journal, was led by Tehran University of Medical Sciences.
“Our research has shown a polypill prevents heart disease in a developing country and is an important step forward in preventing heart disease,” said Professor Reza Malekzadeh.
Dr Tom Marshall, from the University of Birmingham, a co-author of the study, said the results show the polypill is a “viable strategy” to prevent heart disease in developing countries.
“It’s much simpler to give people one medication that manages a couple of risk factors at the same time,” he said.
Dr Marshall said the benefits would not be as great for people who already have access to good healthcare, but in poorer countries with a less developed infrastructure it could provide “a significant advantage”.