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The isobole is well established and commonly used in the quantitative study of agonist drug combinations. This article reviews the isobole, its derivation from the concept of dose equivalence, and its usefulness in providing the predicted effect of an agonist drug combination, a topic not discussed in pharmacology textbooks. This review addresses that topic and also shows that an alternate method, called "Bliss independence," is inconsistent with the isobolar approach and also has a less clear conceptual basis. In its simplest application the isobole is the familiar linear plot in cartesian coordinates with intercepts representing the individual drug potencies. It is also shown that the isobole can be nonlinear, a fact recognized by its founder (Loewe) but neglected or rejected by virtually all other users. Whether its shape is linear or nonlinear the isobole is equally useful in detecting synergism and antagonism for drug combinations, and its theoretical basis leads to calculations of the expected effect of a drug combination. Numerous applications of isoboles in preclinical testing have shown that synergism or antagonism is not only a property of the two agonist drugs; the dose ratio is also important, a fact of potential importance to the design and testing of drug combinations in clinical trials.


Ronald J Tallarida. Revisiting the isobole and related quantitative methods for assessing drug synergism. The Journal of pharmacology and experimental therapeutics. 2012 Jul;342(1):2-8

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PMID: 22511201

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