On the front page of yesterday’s Business section, the Tribune ran a story about pharmaceutial companies developing combination drugs – Combo Pills Perk Up Firms’ Profits.  The combination pills, for example a pill containing medicine to treat both high cholesterol and high blood pressure, have dual advantages:  1) patients are required to take fewer pills and the fewer the number of pills a person must take, the more likely they are to take all of their pills; and 2) patents are likely available on the combined drugs, extending patent protection.  The Tribune reported that dozens of combination pills are likely being developed, including in areas such as heart disease, asthma and depression.  For example, the article reports that Abbott Labs and AstraZeneca announced plans last year to combine their two popular cholesterol drugs, Tricor and Crestor respectively, into a single pill to lower cardiovascular disease risk (the #1 killer according to the article).

Another advantage to the combo pills is that development costs are substantially reduced because the component medicines have already been thoroughly developed and tested.  The lower entry costs allow small pharmaceutical companies like BrianT Laboratories of Lake Forest to enter the market.  BrianT is working on combining hypertension and cholesterol fighting drugs.