On Monday, the Food and Drug Administration approved Trijardy XR, a combination treatment that contains three drugs already approved for type 2 diabetes: Jardiance, Tradjenta, and the generic drug metformin.

Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) and its partner, Germany-based Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals, will market the drug, as they do Jardiance and Tradjenta. The companies formed a strategic alliance in 2011 that brought their diabetes pipelines together.

Boehringer Ingelheim arguably brought more to the deal -- it owned both Jardiance and Tradjenta -- while Eli Lilly initially made an upfront payment to its new ally to even out the alliance.

Doctor taking a blood glucose reading with medication on a table

Image source: Getty Images.

On the surface, Trijardy XR is simply designed for convenience since the healthcare companies aren't making any claims about how well the triple combination works. The FDA approval was based on two clinical trials that showed the single pill produced an equivalent effect to taking the three individual pills for healthy volunteers.

But both Jardiance, which is an SGLT2 inhibitor, and Tradjenta, which inhibits DPP-4, are in competitive drug classes -- multiple other treatments use the same mechanisms of action. Merck, for instance, sells SGLT2 inhibitor Steglatro and DPP-4 inhibitor Januvia. AstraZeneca markets SGLT2 inhibitor Farxiga and DPP-4 inhibitor Onglyza.

This triple-combination pill could help keep competition at bay and encourage diabetes patients to stay in the Eli Lilly/Boehringer Ingelheim family when their doctors want to add drugs in additional classes to their regimens. In fact, the companies already sell pills that pair each of the available double combinations -- Synjardy (Jardiance and metformin), Glyxambi (Jardiance and Tradjenta), and Jentadueto (Tradjenta and metformin) -- facilitating the progression from a single drug to two drugs, and eventually to Trijardy XR.

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