FDA Approves Juvisync, First Combo Pill to Treat Diabetes and High Cholesterol

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The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved on Friday the first combination pill to treat Type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol.

The new pill called Juvisync, made by Merck, combines the company’s most popular diabetes drug, Januvia (sitagliptin), and its cholesterol-lowering statin Zocor (simvastatin). The AP called the pill a “probable blockbuster,” predicting that it will appeal to millions of patients with diabetes who are not currently taking a statin.

Many of the estimated 25 million Americans who have Type 2 diabetes also have high cholesterol — in part because both conditions are related to obesity — a dangerous combination that increases patients’ risk of heart disease, stroke and kidney disease.

The American Diabetes Association recommends that patients with diabetes who have heart disease or are over age 40 to add a statin to their daily regimen. Patients who follow medication guidelines end up taking multiple pills a day to control blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure. But many other patients — up to 4 million diabetes patients over 40 according to Merck scientists, the AP reported — are not taking statins.

Juvisync, which promises to streamline patients’ required medications, will sell for the same price as Januvia alone, about $215 per month. Zocor in its generic form costs about $30 a month.

The new pill will be available in six different dosage strengths to accommodate patients with varying disease. The most common side effects of the pill include upper respiratory infection, stuffy or runny nose, headache, sore throat, muscle and stomach pain, nausea and constipation.

Last year, Januvia had sales of $2.4 billion. So far this year, it’s brought in $1.5 billion. Merck’s Janumet, another combo pill that combines Januvia with the the generic diabetes drug metformin, had sales of $626 million in the first half of 2011.

Meredith Melnick is a reporter at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @MeredithCM. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.