Leave it to a Stephen Colbert piece to tickle my funny bone this morning. A couple of nights ago he did a typically snarky piece
where one focus was the effort of pharmaceutical research companies to create "combination" medicines (at about 3:53 in the clip
). For Colbert, the joke was in a massive pill (the size of a shoe) made up of pills that cures or causes just about any malady imaginable. It's worth a look. He's having a great time and can hardly keep in character and struggles to stop laughing.
While the bit is funny, far be it for me to let a comedic bit focusing on pharmaceutical research companies pass without trying to interject at least one or two serious points. Some of the combination therapies now available to patients or in development are truly amazing and terrific for patients. HIV/AIDS medicines are a great example. Where HIV/AIDS patients once had to take dozens of pills, combination therapies have made managing the diseases far easier. Indeed, in countries in the developing world with a huge HIV/AIDS problem and little healthcare infrastructure, combination therapies are helping to bring medicine to patients who previously had no access or capacity to appropriately store and manage many, many pills.
A second serious point. New combination therapies are very important to the problem of adherence to medicines. We know that patients do better physically and incur fewer healthcare costs (like hospitalizations or nursing care) where they can adhere to their doctor's orders and take their medicines appropriately. Obviously, it is easier to take one medicine once a day, than several medicines several times a day. It is easier to remember and easier to get the timing right.
Anyway, enough preaching. Colbert is funny but when you stop giggling, try to keep in mind the truly amazing scientific advance that combination medicines represent.