A cocktail of potentially life-saving drugs, in an all-in-one "polypill", could halve strokes and rates of heart attacks in healthy middle-aged and older people, a major trial has revealed.
More than 2,000 people aged 45 to 80 took part in the research in India, which was the most comprehensive study yet of the controversial "magic bullet" pill.
The five-drug polypill, Polycap, was compared by scientists for efficacy and safety with combinations of its different components.
They found that the pill, if given to a population of healthy adults with at least one risk factor - such as raised blood pressure, obesity or smoking - could still halve the number of strokes, heart attacks and other cardiovascular events. An effect of this size could result in thousands of saved lives in Britain alone.
Almost 200,000 Britons are killed by heart and artery disease each year. A fifth of all deaths before the age of 75 in men are due to cardiovascular disease, as are 10% of those in women.
Professor Malcolm Law, from the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine in London, said: "These drugs are off-patent and cost pennies.
"You might be talking in terms of 50 p a day. There's no way its going to drain resources."
"Would the amount of money saved from the NHS healthcare bill be enough to fund the increased social care bills?" - Donna Towell
"Pills like this are not going to become widely available until the government and society at large place more value on the lives of older people. The ongoing fiasco with the cholinesterase inhibitors for people with dementia is a perfect example of how little priority spending on older people has at the moment." - David Small, Edinburgh