A massive study conducted in 50 centres in India suggests that a life-saving combo of five drugs called "polypill"- containing three blood-pressure-lowering drugs, as well as a statin and aspirin-can help healthy people reduce their risk of heart attack and stroke.
Researchers at St John's Medical College, Bangalore, carried out the study in collaboration with experts from McMaster University, Canada.
The researchers claim that they are the first to test a version of the polypill in 2,000 people aged 45 to 80.
The polypill, touted as the 'magic bullet', aims to try and treat multiple components of cardiovascular disease all at once, so that people have to take lesser number of medications and thus increase compliance.
In the trial led by Salim Yusuf at McMaster University in Hamilton, Canada, scientists tested the five-drug polypill - called Polycap - in healthy individuals with one cardiovascular risk factor, such as being overweight, having smoked in the past five years, or having type-2 diabetes.
"This is equivalent to your average Joe or Jane walking down the street," New Scientist magazine quoted Christopher Cannon at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, who was not involved in the study, as saying.
The results showed that over 12 weeks, the polypill reduced blood pressure and cholesterol in a similar way to its individual constituent drugs without increasing side effects.
The researchers said that as patients are poor at taking multiple drugs, the single pill combination could "substantially improve adherence and therefore the benefits."
The results may be because the formulation of the pill interfered with its absorption.
The researchers highlighted that the side effects of the polypill were similar to when the drugs were given individually.
Scientists compared Polycap, a five-drug polypill, with combinations of its different components to assess effectiveness and safety.
Based on their observations, the researchers came to the conclusion that if the pill was given to a population of healthy adults with at least one risk factor, such as raised blood pressure, obesity or smoking, it may halve the number of heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular problems.
They have revealed that their next step will be to test the polypill in a larger group, over a longer period of time to see if it cuts heart attacks and stroke.
"This study takes a first and crucial step forward and raises hope that, in conjunction with other global efforts to improve diet and exercise, the polypill could one day substantially reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease in the world," said Cannon.
The results of the trial have been published in the journal The Lancet.