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Friday, May 1, 2009

Big Pharma "polypill" could be five problems in one

Housecalls with Dr. William Ferril
May 1, 2009

Some folks seem to think the idea of replacing five drugs you don't need with a single wonder-pill is cause for celebration.

You'll have to pardon me for not joining the party.

A five-way "polypill" combining the most common heart meds in one tablet has been a Big Pharma fantasy for years -- and it's now moving closer to reality. And while the media is singing its praises, no one seems to be talking about how the research is being done with drug company money in a far-off country.

The drug being tested combines three blood pressure medications, a statin, and a baby aspirin. A new study published in The Lancet found patients on this drug have lower cholesterol levels and better blood pressure readings.

However, the tests did not look at whether the combo pill actually lowered the risk for heart disease, stroke, and heart attacks, and even the authors concede that far more research is necessary.

But that's a minor matter for most members of the media. Their coverage has so far been little more than a press release for a drug that's largely untested, unproven, and unnecessary.

An Associated Press report even noted with great joy that the drug's side effects were roughly the same as the side effects one might experience when taking all five drugs separately, as if that was some great achievement. After all, each one of those drugs offers its own laundry list of side effects.

It's about what you'd expect from research funded by the very company that hopes to market the pill. One of the authors of the study has been a paid speaker for several heart drugs.

It's a kangaroo court if I ever saw one, but they've stacked the jury a little more, just in case.

The study was carried out in hospitals across India, where research standards and reporting are not quite what we have over here. Drug makers are increasingly testing new meds in overseas markets, where both the scientific and regulatory oversight have been called into serious question.

The number of meds many people, especially seniors, are forced to take is often ridiculous. It's almost comical that we've reached a point where we're now looking at a pill that combines not two drugs, but five of them.

I might even laugh if it weren't so sad. There are real drug-free alternatives out there. For example, blood pressure can be controlled in a number of completely natural and effective ways, which I'll be spelling out in the next issue of Health Revelations.

In fact, for the overwhelming majority of patients, the risk factors for heart disease can be controlled through diet, exercise, and nutrients.

So if you were wondering what's better than five pills, the real answer isn't one pill -- it's no pills at all.


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