Prescription drugs increasingly are being offered as combination therapies, in which two or more medications are combined in a single dose, the Los Angeles Times reports. According to the Times, the trend in part is being driven by drug manufacturers facing patent expirations and competition from generic drug makers. For example, Pfizer's combination drug Caduet combines the blood pressure drug Norvasc and the cholesterol drug Lipitor. The patent for Norvasc, which has annual sales of $5 billion, expires this year. Lipitor's patent does not expire until 2010, but annual sales already have declined by billions of dollars because of competition from generic versions of Merck's cholesterol medication Zocor.
Physicians also hope combination drugs will help patients be more compliant with drug regimens. According to endocrinologist Daniel Berger, patients often see additional prescriptions as signs of increasingly serious illnesses and might not take them "out of denial." Multiple treatments combined into a single pill could make illnesses seem more manageable, Berger said.
In addition, some drugs work better in combination -- such as Augmentin, which combines amoxicillin with clavulanic acid. The clavulanic acid prevents amoxicillin from being broken down by the enzymes in the body. Berger added that such synergistic combinations could be prescribed at lower dosages, which could reduce side effects.
Some people taking combination drugs might be able to save money on insurance copayments, but costs largely depend on whether the combination treatment is covered. A study of 30 retail pharmacies and two online pharmacies by Beachhead Consulting shows that while some combination drugs can save patients money, others are more expensive than buying the drugs separately (Kritz, Los Angeles Times, 4/30).
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Publication Date: 2007-05-02 19:00