An all-in-one 'polypill' that could save up to 200,000 lives annually in the UK may be available in less than two years.
Results from a ground-breaking trial show the four-medicine tablet dramatically reduces major risk factors for heart attack and stroke.
In a group of healthy individuals aged 50 and over, it cut levels of blood pressure and cholesterol to those typical of a 20-year-old.
If everyone in the UK from a similar age group took the pill, the findings suggest an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 deaths would be prevented.
The number of averted non-fatal cases, including many involving life-changing disablement, could be double this figure. Experts called for the pill to be made generally available to the UK population "without delay".
Study leader Dr David Wald, from Queen Mary, University of London , said it could take another one to two years for all the regulatory hurdles to be overcome.
The pill is a layered tablet containing three blood pressure-lowering drugs and a cholesterol-lowering statin.
Dr Wald said: "The health implications of our results are large.
"If people took the polypill from age 50, an estimated 28% would benefit by avoiding or delaying a heart attack or stroke during their lifetime; on average, those who benefit would gain 11 years of life without a heart attack or stroke."
The findings have been published in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE .
Promising results following initial research have now been borne out by the first randomised study of the pill's effects on people with no history of heart disease.
It found those taking the pill saw a 12% lowering of blood pressure, and a 39% reduction in levels of "bad" cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
The cost of the prescription-only pill is expected to be no more than a few hundred pounds a year.