$4.5 million behind new pill to tackle Australia’s number one killer

A new pill designed to reduce the devastating toll of heart disease and stroke in Australia and around the world received a $4.5 million boost today.

The polypill, a four-in-one tablet, is a major step closer to becoming reality with the announcement that The George Institute for Global Health and Bupa Australia have joined forces to develop the medication, through a joint venture called SmartGenRx.

Heart disease and stroke are the country’s biggest killers, and there are an estimated one million Australians at high risk who do not receive recommended preventive treatments long-term.

Research has shown, however, that patients who have suffered a stroke or heart attack are 40 per cent more likely to stick to their treatments if they take just one pill – a polypill – instead of four different tablets each day.

Trials have consistently shown that polypills reduce both blood pressure and cholesterol, to levels that could halve the risk of having a heart attack or stroke.

Principal Director of The George Institute for Global Health, Stephen McMahon, said the partnership with Bupa Australia could save millions of lives around the world.

Professor 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.

“A polypill is a simple, innovative and incredibly efficient way of addressing these global health problems.”

Bupa Australia and The George Institute have launched a 50-50 joint venture, SmartGenRx, to develop the polypill. It is expected to be publically available in around three years.

Chief Medical Officer at Bupa Australia & New Zealand, Dr Paul Bates, said: “There is a huge health problem playing out in Australia right now, and we are determined to be part of the solution.

“Our support will enable the compelling research led by The George Institute for Global Health to translate into real health and care outcomes for millions of people.”

Key facts:

  • Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is Australia’s biggest killer, claiming the life of one Australian every 12 minutes.
  • 800,000 Australians have suffered a heart attack or stroke. But just half of patients at high risk take recommended treatments long-term.
  • Studies suggest heart disease costs Australia $18 billion each year with half of the cost attributable to repeat events
  • In previous trials by The George Institute, more than 85% of patients said they would ask their doctor for a polypill if it came to market.