A collaborative international study has found that a combination of inexpensive medications can be effective in reducing deaths from cardiovascular disease.
Pharmacologist Dr John Varigos from Monash University and Professor Christopher Reid from Curtin University led a team of Australian researchers in a study called HOPE-3 (Heart Outcomes Prevention Evaluation -3).
HOPE-3 involved about 13,000 participants across 21 countries.
Dr Varigos said it was about 10 years in the making.
“It doesn’t happen overnight,” he said.
“Basically we looked at what we could use to lower cholesterol and what we could use to lower blood pressure in patients who were at moderate risk of heart disease.”
Dr Varigos said to keep the study relevant it was important it included people at risk of getting heart disease from all over the world.
He said the idea for the study came from Indian cardiologist Dr Salim Yusuf, based in Hilton Canada, who has raised concerns about the affordability of heart disease medications for those on low incomes.
“We looked at something which was inexpensive and available to a large number of people globally,” he said.
HOPE-3 examined the effectiveness of combining statins (that lower cholesterol) and antihypertensives (that lower blood pressure).
Dr Varigos said when the statin and antihypertensive drugs were combined in a ‘polypill’ it led to an up to 40 per cent reduction in death, heart attacks and strokes.
The Australian Heart Foundation chief medical advisor Garry Jennings welcomed the findings of the HOPE 3 study.
“The study illustrates the importance of Australian participation in global trials, as these results are likely to be immediately adapted to Australia,” Professor Jennings said.
“We estimate that 2.1 million Australians fulfil the present guidelines for treatment with statin as they are at high risk of having a heart event.
“However, future guideline committees might consider expanding this eligibility to people at moderate risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
“The results support the Heart Foundation’s recommendations of treating a person based on their overall risk, rather than cholesterol or blood pressure in isolation.”
Dr Varigos said the HOPE-3 researchers now aimed to prove that continued treatment would maintain the benefit achieved.
“We usually only follow the patients up for five years, what we are doing now is following up the patients for 10 years to see what the long term effects are,” he said.
“So what we want to prove now is that continuing treatment in these patients has a beneficial effect, which may or may not be maintained for a further 10 years, hopefully not just maintained but also maybe increased.”