20 July 2012

New drug could save countless lives!

Scientists from Queen Mary, University of London, have recently announced that a new drug is in the pipelines that could potentially slash the numbers of fatal and debilitating cases of heart attacks and the ailments associated with high blood pressure/cholesterol each year. The drug, which has not yet been named commercially, is a 'polypill' formed from a statin (a class of drugs that lower cholesterol) and three drugs that lower blood pressure. All of the polypill's components have been used pharmaceutically for decades so that the new drug is considered safe, although any risks or side-effects that may be associated with its use cannot be determined until large-scale testing has been carried out on human volunteers.

The various drug components of the polypill are ground into a fine powder and mixed within an insoluble shell (that is often based on glycerol), which is broken down by enzymes secreted in the small intestine.

The scientists developing the pill have called for it to be made available as "a matter of urgency" and expect the pill to be available upon prescription within two years. Should this be the case, then the drug may reduce the blood pressure of over 50's by 12% and their 'bad' cholesterol (formed by Low-Density Lipoproteins) by 39%. This effectively reduces their likelihood of having a heart attack or a stroke for example, to the same levels of risk experienced by reasonably healthy 20 years olds - preventing an estimated 94, 000 a year!

Although the polypill has been heralded as a "milestone" in our ability to help fight these illnesses, which are becoming disturbingly more and more common, they are not a substitute for healthy living. The British Heart Foundation (BHF) stresses that although the positive benefits of the drug are obvious in the small-scale study carried out to provide this data, much more research into its application and effects needs to be carried out before the drug is ready for production. Particularly on the long-term effects of the drug on healthy people, who may buy it in order to stave of such conditions.

Despite the misgivings arising from the drug's lack of testing, the commercial use of this polypill looks likely. Combined with a balanced diet and healthy lifestyle, the drug could save up to 200, 000 lives in the United Kingdom every year and greatly reduce the numbers of patients suffering from permanent disabilities resulting from strokes.

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