Editorials

A cure for cardiovascular disease?

BMJ 2003; 326 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.326.7404.1407 (Published 26 June 2003) Cite this as: BMJ 2003;326:1407
  1. Anthony Rodgers (a.rodgers@auckland.ac.nz), co-director
  1. Clinical Trials Research Unit, University of Auckland, PO Box 92019, Auckland, New Zealand

    Combination treatment has enormous potential, especially in developing countries

    Today's BMJ contains one of the boldest claims for a new intervention—“a greater impact on the prevention of disease in the Western world than any other known intervention.”1 Is it a new magic bullet for cancer or a new gene therapy? No, it is a new strategy to deliver some of our most well known medicines. Wald and Law propose that a single pill containing aspirin, a statin, three blood pressure lowering agents in half dose, and folic acid is provided to people with vascular disease and those aged over 55 years. They synthesise an enormous amount of information (including over 750 trials with 400 000 participants) to estimate that the pill would reduce heart disease and risk of stroke by over 80%, while causing symptoms warranting withdrawal of the pill in one to two per 100 and fatal side effects in less than one in 10 000 users. If this were correct the benefits would substantially outweigh hazards in people with vascular disease (who have more than a one in five chance of a major event over five years without treatment) and many others at higher risk.

    Will the benefits be so great? All the components except folic acid have unequivocal evidence of benefits across the board, shown by randomised trials in different groups of patients. Large trials with folic acid are ongoing, and existing evidence is very encouraging. Lowering …

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