Home | Cover | America | World

Cardio-vascular Health


Rx : Take This Polypill Once A Year!!

By Dr. W. Gifford Jones

October 10, 2004

"Damn it, why didn't I think of it. Maybe I could have won the Nobel Prize." This thought occurred to me several years ago while reading a newspaper while having a beer in a English pub. Professors Nicholas Wald and Malcolm Law of the University of London announced they were working on a Polypill aimed to cut heart disease by 80 percent.

The Polypill was to contain Aspirin to prevent blood clots, a cholesterol-lowering drug, folic acid to fight atherosclerosis and an anti-hypertension medication. Researchers claimed that popping one daily would have a greater impact on preventing heart disease in the western world than any other treatment. I ordered another beer and knew this was the start of the Polypill generation.

Now it's happened here. Pfizer pharmaceutical has developed a Polypill called Caduet. It contains a blood pressure drug Norvasc and a cholesterol-lowering drug Lipitor and it will in all probability make Pfizer a ton of money. And I'd predict the race to develop other Polypills is on by other companies to share in this billion dollar market.

But blending together a number of drugs into one pill is not without it's pitfalls. Studies show that 50 percent of people 65 and over take five or more drugs and 12 percent 10 or more. People already take more medication than they need so making it more convenient to swallow drugs is possibly the worst thing we could do to increase this problem.

I often say to patients, "At the next visit bring in all your medication in a paper bag". And when they do it's amazing how the numbers add up. For instance patients with hypertension are often taking two drugs, those with diabetes three and if there's a heart problem there can be another five drugs."

Moreover, studies show that those over age 65 are usually on one or two needless drugs. In some cases the medication is the wrong one or new research shows it's no longer

the drug of choice. In some situations the disorder has resolved and the drug no longer needed. And there is a greater tendency for doctors to start a new drug than end one that isn't required.

Years ago I recall laughing on seeing a Jim Unger Herman cartoon. It showed a doctor handing a patient a huge pill saying "Take one of these once a year".

Medical Archives after 2008
Medical Archives before 2008

W. Gifford-Jones M.D is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker graduate of Harvard. Dr. Walker's website is: Docgiff.com

My book, “90 + How I Got There” can be obtained by sending $19.95 to:

Giff Holdings, 525 Balliol St, Unit # 6,Toronto, Ontario, M4S 1E1

Pre-2008 articles by Gifford Jones