Polypill: tackling Australia's biggest killer

The George Institute for Global Health and Bupa Australia have joined forces to develop a new polypill designed to reduce the devastating toll of heart disease and stroke in Australia and around the world. 

Kerry Redfern thought he was healthy for his age. He stopped work at 69 years old and was looking forward to an active retirement. But that all changed in the blink of an eye.

“On the day of the heart attack I had a lot of pain down my chest which I thought was reflux,” he said. “Apparently, it was a massive heart attack from what they told me.”
 
After a series of bypasses Kerry’s medical team told him how serious his condition was.
 
“They said at the time of booking me in I was known as the 45 million to one man to live through what had happened,” he says.
 
Kerry lost 35% of his heart function after the attack, leaving the bottom half dormant in his chest. And in order to prevent a secondary heart attack Kerry must take medication for the rest of his life. 
 
Six pills a day to be precise.
 
Sadly, Kerry’s tale is not a unique story. Heart disease and stroke are Australia’s biggest killers for both men and women and are a major causes of hospital admissions placing a huge burden on our health care system. 
 
While the number of repeat heart attacks could be halved through secondary prevention with a program of medication, research has shown that many patients don’t stick to the strict regime due to multiple medications being too confusing and difficult to manage. 

Medication
Principal Director of The George Institute for Global Health, Stephen McMahon, said “Heart disease and stroke are Australia’s biggest killers. Yet many people are dying unnecessarily because they either don’t continue taking all the medications they need or in low income countries don’t even get the chance to start treatment because the cost is just too prohibitive."
 
But hopefully that could be about to change.
 
Bupa Australia and The George Institute are joining forces to launch a venture named SmartGenRx. Their premier product will be a revolutionary new multi-drug combination pill, known as a polypill. 

This polypill, named SGRx1, is devised with the intention of significantly reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke with just a single pill per day, which will help reduce the difficulty around managing medications as part of cardiovascular treatment.

Research suggests that people would be 40% more likely to take their medication once the treatment is simplified, and 85% of patients said they would request this pill from their doctors if it were available.

Polypill infographic
“I take three tablets in the morning and three tablets in evening,” tells Kerry. “I use my smartphone to remind me at 7.20am and 7.20pm every day. If I go out for dinner, I take my pills with me.

“If that could be reduced down to one tablet you’d only have to do it once. It doesn’t sound like much if you’re not on medication but if you are on medication it just makes it more convenient. A lot more convenient.”

This polypill will not be immediately available with development time estimated at around three years, however, clinical trials have proved to be highly effective which indicates that once available this treatment will hopefully change lives.

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