Reducing Disparities in Access to Cardiovascular Disease Prevention with the Polypill

This year’s AHA 2020 Scientific Session is taking place using combined modalities, including live, simulive, and on-demand sessions. Despite the change from the traditional in-person modality to the virtual approach, listening to the opening session and findings from emerging science reminded me of the mission of the American Heart Association to be a relentless force for a world of longer, healthier lives. This year’s scientific sessions also align with a wide range of events we all have experienced this year, ranging from the COVID-19 pandemic, to racial/ethnic, gender, and income disparities leading to health inequity in our society. These further present a call to action in order to address these very same societal issues that are likely to impact on health equity for the most vulnerable groups.

The cardiovascular polypill, or combined aspirin, cholesterol, and blood-pressure-lowering agents into a single pill has been proposed for nearly a decade as a complementary option in the prevention of cardiovascular diseases in intermediate- and high-risk patient populations.1 Yet there have been previous limitations in understanding its efficacy and relative safety in developing countries.2  The findings of the International Polycap Study (TIPS)-3 presented by Dr. Salim Yusuf during the late-breaking science session bring a ray of hope to the global disparities in cardiovascular disease prevention.3 The study resulted in a 30% reduction in cardiovascular risk with a combined regimen composed of Aspirin and a polypill (atenolol, ramipril, hydrochlorothiazide, and a statin).3  Based on the TIPS-3 study, the polypill approach presents a safe and cost-effective strategy with the potential for satisfactory medication adherence.

While these findings are promising for developing countries, the polypill may present a viable solution to underserved, low-income minority groups in developed countries.4  Another important takeaway from this study was the inclusion of women, who represented 53% of the sample.  Their inclusion in global studies such as this one also highlights the move into health equity and awareness of women’s health globally at a time when cardiovascular disease continue to present women’s greatest health threat. Traditionally, the enrollment of women in clinical trials has been limited. This has resulted in a limited understanding of risk factors and benefits from treatment regimens for cardiovascular disease-specific to women.5

As we observe the benefits related to polypill, it is also important to keep in mind that it may not align with the medical trend in developed countries for precision medicine, leading to individualized, targeted therapy.6  With cardiovascular disease remaining the leading cause of mortality and morbidity in developed and developing countries, and low-income, ethnic minorities affected by it, the question remains on long-term, best preventive strategies in the reduction of cardiovascular risk factors for all. It will also be important to measure long-term outcomes related to polypill strategies in future studies.



  1. Lafeber M, Spiering W, Singh K, Guggilla RK, Patil V, Webster R; SPACE collaboration. The cardiovascular polypill in high-risk patients. Eur J Prev Cardiol. 2012 Dec;19(6):1234-42. doi: 10.1177/1741826711428066. Epub 2011 Oct 21. PMID: 22019908.
  2. Nguyen C, Cheng-Lai A. The polypill: a potential global solution to cardiovascular disease. Cardiol Rev. 2013 Jan-Feb;21(1):49-54. doi: 10.1097/CRD.0b013e3182755429. PMID: 23018668.
  3. Joseph P, Pais P, Dans AL, Bosch J, Xavier D, Lopez-Jaramillo P, Yusoff K, Santoso A, Talukder S, Gamra H, Yeates K, Lopez PC, Tyrwhitt J, Gao P, Teo K, Yusuf S; TIPS-3 Investigators. The International Polycap Study-3 (TIPS-3): Design, baseline characteristics and challenges in conduct. Am Heart J. 2018 Dec;206:72-79. doi: 10.1016/j.ahj.2018.07.012. Epub 2018 Aug 2. PMID: 30342297; PMCID: PMC6299262.
  4. Muñoz D, Uzoije P, Reynolds C, Miller R, Walkley D, Pappalardo S, Tousey P, Munro H, Gonzales H, Song W, White C, Blot WJ, Wang TJ. Polypill for Cardiovascular Disease Prevention in an Underserved Population. N Engl J Med. 2019 Sep 19;381(12):1114-1123. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa1815359. PMID: 31532959; PMCID: PMC6938029.
  5. Saeed A, Kampangkaew J, Nambi V. Prevention of Cardiovascular Disease in Women. Methodist Debakey Cardiovasc J. 2017 Oct-Dec;13(4):185-192. doi: 10.14797/mdcj-13-4-185. PMID: 29744010; PMCID: PMC5935277.
  6. Psaty BM, Dekkers OM, Cooper RS. Comparison of 2 Treatment Models: Precision Medicine and Preventive Medicine. JAMA. 2018 Aug 28;320(8):751-752. doi: 10.1001/jama.2018.8377. PMID: 30054607.


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