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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Super Pill: British Researchers Looking at an All-in-One Preventive Pill

Aired June 26, 2003 - 19:32   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: In health news tonight, a look at what could be known as the mother of all medicine. Imagine taking just one pill and being an I believe to ward off some of the most common problems associated with aging.
So is it the fountain of youth or frankly too good to be true?

Medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: On average, most people in their 60s and 70s take five to seven pills every day. They take them to lower cholesterol, improve blood pressure and generally promote good health. But what if there was one pill, a polypill. Instead of waiting until you got sick to start taking it, you took it every day starting at age 55 as a preventive even if you're completely healthy?

DR. NICHOLAS WALD, UNIVERSITY OF LONDON: In people that start taking the pill at age 55, about one third would expect to benefit. And each of the individuals one on average gain 12 years of extra life. Now, that is enormous.

GUPTA (voice-over): Researchers say it reduces the risk of heart and stroke, the biggest killers of men and women by 80 percent or more. The pill would contain cholesterol lowering statins, blood pressure drugs, folic acid and aspirin. The ingredients would work together to combat the four major markers of heart disease including cholesterol and hypertension.

Sound too good to be true?

The American Heart Association says in theory, the polypills should work, but probably only for some people. The high risk ones.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it would work in terms of providing some core medications that would clearly lower risk of second heart events in people who have had heart disease or stroke, and for selected patients who have elevated risk factors for heart disease. The combination is logical.

GUPTA: Logical combination that might have risks in an estimated 8 to 12 percent of people, such as risk to liver, stomach irritations or just general fatigue. And the polypill is likely years away. And pharmacologists need to develop it and researchers need to make sure it's safe but may prove the add and true, an ounce of prevention is really worth a pound of cure.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

COOPER: Dr. Sanjay Gupta joins me from Atlanta.

Sanjay, just to clarify, does this pill currently exist and is it tested somewhere?

GUPTA: The pill does not exist. It's actually purely theoretical at this point. Now the researchers out of Britain, what they did to study it, had the ingredients in other pills and actually evaluated trials using all those ingredients. But the pill with a combination of all those ingredients doesn't exist right now.

COOPER: All right, what about potential side effects?

GUPTA: Well, there are potential side effects. And that's something people are talking about. You're talking about statin medications, which are cholesterol medications, possibly cause liver problems. Your talking about, blood pressure medications that could possible cause problems dizziness, fatigue. Your talking about Aspirin which can cause stomach irritation. Right now, sort of not talking too much about the side effects saying the benefits outweigh those risks and that's certainly a concern. Before it gets released, obviously have to go through a safety analysis.

COOPER: But is this just for people over 55?

I mean, I am 36, I take a statin pill because of family history of heart disease.

Should someone with some sort of positive family history take this?

GUPTA: Well, that's a thing. And we talked to the people from the American Heart Association. They said, you know, it's very hard to lump everyone together which is what the British researchers are doing. Obviously, someone with an increased risk because of family history, may have to take certain medications early. What they're saying, listen, everybody that comes, if you're over 55 and start to take the medication, you're going to decrease the risk of heart disease and stroke. There are, certainly people to be taking the medication earlier and probably taking the medication later. But they are saying if you just sort of arbitrarily pick this age of 55, you are going to have significant benefits to the society as a whole.

COOPER: All right. Interesting theory. Dr. Sanjay Gupta, thanks.

GUPTA: All right.

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ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: In health news tonight, a look at what could be known as the mother of all medicine. Imagine taking just one pill and being an I believe to ward off some of the most common problems associated with aging.

So is it the fountain of youth or frankly too good to be true?

Medical correspondent, Sanjay Gupta, takes a look.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

SANJAY GUPTA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: On average, most people in their 60s and 70s take five to seven pills every day. They take them to lower cholesterol, improve blood pressure and generally promote good health. But what if there was one pill, a polypill. Instead of waiting until you got sick to start taking it, you took it every day starting at age 55 as a preventive even if you're completely healt>


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