Pharmaceutical giant Bayer has tapped Hamilton-based Population Health Research Institute to conduct major clinical trials that may change how doctors treat patients with heart disease.

The study will investigate the combination of rivaroxaban, an anticoagulant, with aspirin as a possible double-barreled preventative treatment for people with a high risk of suffering a heart attack or stroke.

Rivaroxobran is already available as a treatment for unwanted blood clots, while aspirin is commonly prescribed to help prevent heart attacks.

John Eikelboom, associate professor of Medicine at McMaster University, is one of the lead researchers for the COMPASS trial. He said, "cardiovascular disease remains the number one killer. Each year ,in Canada, more than 30,000 people die from cardiovascular disease."

Eikelboom says this trial is important and the treatment could be as safe as taking aspirin. He said, "if we can demonstrate the treatment is better than aspirin the uptake will be global."

Eikelboom added that McMaster University was a natural choice for the trials because the school has been conducting  some of the largest studies ever done on cardiovascular disease. The trials will include about 20,000 patients from more than 25 countries and are expected to run for several years.

The study is in Phase III, the final step before the company can seek governments' approval to sell the drug.