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G Ital Cardiol (Rome). 2012 Jul-Aug;13(7-8):503-10. doi: 10.1714/1114.12246.

[Polytherapy in cardiovascular prevention: open issues].

[Article in Italian]

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Divisione di Cardiologia, Departimento di Medicina Clinica e Molecolare, Università di Roma Sapienza, Ospedale Sant'Andrea, Roma.


Despite the considerable advances in preventive treatment achieved over the last two decades, the increasing burden of cardiovascular disease represents an urgent need for new therapeutic strategies to reduce cardiovascular mortality and morbidity. The current pandemic of obesity, hypertension and diabetes, as a result of unhealthy lifestyle and dietary habits together with predisposing genetic backgrounds, is the main cause of increased cardiovascular mortality and raised overall health expenditure. Despite the growing number of cardiovascular prevention campaigns, the control of cardiovascular risk factors remains largely unsatisfactory worldwide. Unhealthy lifestyles lead to an increased consumption of drugs to achieve target levels of cardiovascular risk factors, namely blood pressure and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol. This phenomenon results in a disproportionate increase in the number of cardiovascular drugs, already in the early stages of disease. Despite current guidelines encourage combination therapies in cardiovascular prevention, the adoption of polytherapy, commonly defined as the use of 5 or more drugs, is extremely frequent and is often paradoxically unsuccessful due to poor patient education and adherence, increased adverse effects and inappropriate drug prescribing. Moreover, increased life-expectancy resulting from early treatment of myocardial infarction and improved heart failure management has led to an older population characterized by an increased prevalence of comorbid conditions. This is a further reason for increased prescription of drugs leading to an impairment of patient adherence and increased adverse effects. In order to overcome the emerging problem of polytherapy, the use of a single "polypill" containing a combination of drugs for cardiovascular prevention has been postulated. Such an approach is providing promising results in the management of hypertension and dyslipidemia. However, available evidence is still preliminary and prospective data on cardiovascular outcomes are still lacking. This present article proposes a critical analysis of some open issues related to polytherapy in cardiovascular prevention.

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