Combo Drugs: The Next DTC Wave?
“Most seniors can be better served with fewer pills.”
Merck recently got approval to combine two drugs for different conditions into one. Juvisync combines diabetes drug Januvia with cholesterol reducer Zocor. People with type 2 diabetes often have high cholesterol and a combo drug makes it easier for compliance purposes. Merck decided to price Juvisync with no additional premium to Januvia so a patient gets the cholesterol reducer at no additional cost.
With poor compliance and retention rates, anything that provides treatment in fewer pills is a good thing. Since non-treatment of diabetes leads to more symptoms, it is a good idea to piggy back the asymptomatic high cholesterol treatment with a diabetes pill.
From a drug company perspective, adding a pill that has gone generic costs nothing and adds value to the branded offering. Januvia is a brand with patent life but Zocor has gone generic. Merck smartly figured it could add value to Januvia with no real cost to them or the patient.
Most seniors have multiple conditions and millions can be better served if they can combine treatments with fewer pills. Taking one pill for blood pressure/cholesterol or cholesterol/diabetes or blood pressure/diabetes makes it easier to comply. Adding treatments to a pill makes that pill more important and a patient is less likely to forget to renew their prescription if treatments are combined.
Most major drug companies have pills for several conditions and could make combos available. Being the combo king may distinguish one drug company from another. Physicians would prefer to get people to take combos since it cuts their need to renew so many individual scripts. Patients, like me, who run out of individual prescriptions, would like to have fewer trips to the pharmacy. I take cholesterol and blood pressure pills and each seems to run out at different times.
Drug companies would be well-served to think more from the consumer perspective in terms of the dose and ease of use. That means a wider variety of doses so consumers can find a pill that works best with the least side effects. Too many pills have wide gaps in dose alternatives making it harder to up the dose. Many pills have the same dose recommendations for a petite 100 pound grandma and 350 pound man.
I think Juvisnyc is one of many future combos we will see. Combos might lead to a reduction in health care cost if fewer pills lead to manufacturing and distribution efficiencies in addition to better compliance and retention. Chances are a fatter America will have high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, arthritis, and depression rates rising. Perhaps we will be able to put them all in one pill and we can have a naming contest for the mega pill. Liposaurus is my name for themonster pill that all of us will need someday.
Bob Ehrlich, Chairman
DTC Perspectives, Inc.