Philip Joseph, M.D., Image credit: Population Health Research Institute
Philip Joseph, M.D., Image credit: Population Health Research Institute

A combination drug therapy given in fixed doses can reduce cardiovascular disease mortality by more than half — and the greatest overall benefits may be found in older adults, a new meta-analysis of three major studies has found.

The most successful treatments included aspirin, statins and at least two blood pressure medications. More than 18,000 patients received this fixed-dose combination therapy, either with and without aspirin, or participated as controls. None of the participants had former diagnoses of cardiovascular disease.

The results: The multidrug therapy including aspirin reduced the risk of heart attacks by 53%, stroke by 51%, and deaths from cardiovascular causes by 49%, reported cardiologist Philip Joseph, M.D., of McMaster University in Canada.

The combination drug therapy can be given separately or as a polypill, Joseph said. In addition, the benefits were seen in participants with different blood pressure levels, cholesterol levels and with or without diabetes. The largest benefits appeared to occur in older people, the authors noted.

The drugs used are generic and low cost, and the authors foresee the development of an even stronger polypill that could help cut cardiovascular disease by up to 70% worldwide.

The research was presented this weekend at the European Society of Cardiology Congress. Full findings were published in JAMA Internal Medicine.