Monday, September 29, 2008

Tests start on new superpill

"Drug that combines four medicines could halve worldwide deaths from heart attacks and strokes." From The Guardian.

A drug that combines four different medicines and could halve deaths from heart attacks and stroke around the globe will enter human trials this week in London.

The once-a-day polypill has been the dream of doctors for many years, but because the drugs it contains, including aspirin, are cheap, there has been no financial incentive for the pharmaceutical industry to get involved. . . .

Difficulties in combining four drugs in one tablet have been overcome and the Red Heart pill, as it has been christened, has been manufactured by the Indian generic drug company Dr Reddy's. Volunteers are now being recruited for a 12-week pilot trial which will involve up to 700 people in six countries. If all goes well, the main trial with 5,000 to 7,000 volunteers will begin at the end of next year.

Anthony Rodgers, co-director of the clinical trials unit at the University of Auckland, leader of the project, said it had been a struggle to get the polypill this far. "The chances of mainstream pharmaceutical industry taking this on are slim.

"We spent a few years around about 2000-2002 trying to persuade a number of companies to do this, but got nowhere. Basically, their whole business model is around people paying a few hundred pounds a year for the latest blockbuster drug. A pill with established medicines that halved cardiovascular risk and could be available for £20 a year could be seen as a threat."

He added that it had been hard to find a source of research funding for a lifesaving idea that involved using existing medicines and was therefore about application as much as innovation. "If someone came up with a credible solution to preventing most cancer, using established available and affordable medicines, can you imagine it taking this long to be trialled?" . . .

Makes me wonder whether the drug companies' profit motive is good for our health. Perhaps these companies should be nationalized or in some way restructured for the benefit of the common weal.

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