Cutting down the volume of stroke and heart attack medication is helping people manage their health, a new study has found.

Australian researchers have proved that a single, multi-drug pill is a lifesaver for heart attack and stroke survivors burdened by the need to take four or more medicines a day as they are 40 per cent more likely to stay on their medication than people prescribed a cocktail of separate medicines.

This is a major boost for people with cardiovascular disease or those at high risk, says researcher Dr Ruth Webster of the George Institute for Global Health in Sydney, as it reduces the complexity of taking several pills and slashes the cost, although the side effects are the same as if each drug was taken separately.

“These results are an important step forward in the polypill journey and management of cardiovascular disease,” said Dr Webster ahead of a presentation of the study at the World Heart Federation congress.

About half of patients in Australia don’t take their recommended medication, which puts them at significant risk.

“The polypill solves most of the issues, apart from the side-effects,” said Dr Webster, whose team analysed data from 3140 patients in Australia, New Zealand, India and Europe. “When you compare the group that took the polypill to the group that took the usual medication, 43 per cent more people in the polypill group were taking their medication 12 months later.”

These people had significant improvements in blood pressure and cholesterol levels compared with those who stopped taking their medicine.

“This could save their life. The aim of all these medications is to prevent heart attacks and stroke,” says Dr Webster. “The majority of heart attacks and strokes happen in people who already have some indication that they are at risk.” 

The study shows the potential global benefit of the polypill, said Professor Salim Yusuf, president-elect of the world federation.

Although it was not a substitute for a healthy lifestyle, wide use of the polypill could prevent several million premature deaths, he said.

Do you take multiple medications every day? Would a polypill help you? Let us know!