Thursday, July 19, 2012

All over 50s 'should be offered polypill': Four-in-one drug could extend life by 11 years and prevent thousands of strokes and heart attacks

This is just faith-healing.  There is no demonstrated effect on lifespan or disease incidence

A four-in-one pill to slash the risk of heart disease should be made available for all over-50s, a leading doctor said yesterday.

Professor Sir Nicholas Wald claimed that if just half of those over 50 took the ‘polypill’, which contains a cholesterol-busting statin and a trio of blood pressure drugs, then almost 100,000 heart attacks and strokes would be prevented each year.

Sir Nicholas, who developed antenatal screening for Down’s syndrome and linked passive smoking with lung cancer, said the drug could be approved for use over the counter in the UK in as little as a year and cost less than £1 a day. ‘The net benefits are too large to ignore,’ he added.

The professor, of Queen Mary,  University of London, made the  recommendation after a study showed taking the tablet every day for 12 weeks gave those in their  fifties, sixties and seventies the blood pressure and cholesterol  levels of twentysomethings.

Researchers gave the polypill to 84 men and women aged between 51 and 77.   They were chosen on the basis of age alone, and not because tests showed they were at a particularly high risk of heart problems.

After taking the tablet for three months, their blood pressure fell by an average of 12 per cent and ‘bad cholesterol’ by 39 per cent, the journal PLoS ONE reports.  This gave the participants readings more usually seen in someone decades younger.

It is estimated that if everyone over 50 took the tablet, two in three heart attacks and strokes could be prevented.
graphic polypills

Sir Nicholas – a polypill patent-holder – would like the drugs to be prescribed based on age alone.

Rather than going to a GP’s surgery for a series of tests, people would speak to their pharmacist who would ask their age and what medication they are taking before giving them the drug.

Despite concerns that this would lead to many apparently healthy people taking powerful medication, he said: ‘It is specifically designed for healthy people to keep them healthy.

'It is like taking anti-malarials if  you are going to Africa – you take them in order to reduce your chance of contracting the disease.’

Dr David Wald, Sir Nicholas’s son and the study’s lead researcher, added: ‘This has the potential to have a massive impact in reducing a person’s risk of a heart attack or stroke.  'It is a pill to prevent people from becoming patients and from dying from two of the most common causes of death in the world.’

The polypill tested by the team, developed by Indian firm Cipla,  contains low doses of three blood pressure drugs: amlodipine, losartan and hydrochlorothiazide.

It also contains simvastatin, one of the most widely-used statins. Others in development around the world also include aspirin and folic acid.

Polypill advocates say it is easier to remember one tablet than several drugs to be taken at different times.

But Duncan Dymond, a consultant cardiologist at St Bartholomew’s Hospital in central London, described mass prescription based on age alone as ‘absolutely ridiculous’.

‘When you spray crops, you hope that some of the crops you hit are actually going to need dusting, and accept the fact that you are going to miss some of the crops that will need dusting – and also spray crops that are perfectly healthy. And that is what we will do with this,’ he said.

Natasha Stewart, of the British Heart Foundation, described the research as encouraging, but warned: ‘Medicines are not a substitute for living a healthy lifestyle.’


Australians eating the "wrong" foods?

I don't know what business it is of anybody but the eaters -- and the fact that Australians have one of the world's longest lifespans is not addressed

SOARING obesity rates, falling fruit and vegetable intake and a fast-food industry cashing in on an appetite for fatty foods - Australians seem to be gluttons for punishment.

A damning government report on nutrition and dietary habits said more than 60 per cent of adults and almost a quarter of children aged 2-16 are either overweight or obese.

It's leading to serious health problems such as heart disease and diabetes, costing more than $8 billion a year in health care and lost productivity.

But it's little wonder our waistlines are growing, with almost 30 per cent of the average household food budget spent on fast food and eating out.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report found the average family spent more each week on alcohol than meat, fruit and vegetables.

Even when families buy healthy food, much of it ends up in the bin -- with an average $600 worth of food thrown out annually per household.

Of an estimated total $5 billion worth of food disposed of annually, $1.1 billion was fruit and vegetables.

AIHW spokeswoman Lisa McGlynn said more than 90 per cent of adults did not eat the recommended five serves of vegetables each day -- and half did not eat enough fruit.

"The good news in all this is that we know the state we're in and we know what we can do about it," she said.

"We can all start with small changes like just having a couple of extra pieces of fruit or serves of vegetables."

Newcastle family day-carer Robinanne Lavelle said she often saw parents packing their children's lunch-boxes with processed foods, sandwiches smothered in chocolate spread and lollies.

"We're in a society where we have a lot more money than we did a few decades ago and children are often becoming the ones who choose these products," she said.

"I believe working parents who are short on time might not want the hassle while they are out at the shops so they will buy something just because the children want it."

According to the report, lower income earners, Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders were most at risk from poor diet and obesity. With healthy food costing up to 30 per cent more for people living in rural and remote regions, they too were at increased risk.

Dietitians Association of Australia spokesman Dr Trent Watson called for a fundamental change in the way authorities tackled the problem, with more funding for prevention.

"Unless we start shaping our health care system to target these determinants of health as an absolute priority, we're going to be in an unsustainable position," he said.


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