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Lilly to go ‘on offense’

Published on 31/01/14 at 08:07am
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The loss of patent on antidepressant Cymbalta in the US last December was largely responsible for Eli Lilly & Co’s 2% dip in revenue to $5.8 billion during the fourth quarter of 2013, the company says.

US revenue slipped 6% to $3 billion as a result of generic competition for Cymbalta (sales of which fell 38% in Q4), although the $2.8 billion sales in the quarter outside the US represented a 1% increase.

However, turnover for the year rose 2% to $23.1 billion when compared to 2012, and Lilly chief executive John Lechleiter told Reuters: “It’s time to go back on offense.”

Lilly made net income of $4.7 billion, a rise of 15% on 2012, and has already announced plans to launch at least three new medicines this year.

Two of these will treat type 2 diabetes - dulaglutide and empagliflozin, the latter of which is co-marketed with Boehringer Ingelheim - and there is also ramucirumab in advanced gastric cancer.

Lilly has high hopes in particular for dulaglutide after it beat its three nearest rivals in reducing blood sugar in a trial in early 2013.

The company knows it has a lot of ground to make up. “The loss of the Cymbalta patent, along with the expiration of the US patent for Evista in March of this year will result in a substantial decline in revenue and earnings in 2014,” admitted Lechleiter.

Cymbalta still brought in $5.1 billion over the year - by far Lilly’s best performer (cancer drug Alimta is next on the list with 2013 sales of $2.7 billion) - but its days are numbered.

“Yet, far from seeing 2014 as a trough year for Lilly, we see it as a moment of tremendous opportunity. We anticipate launching several new medicines this year and returning our company to growth in 2015 and beyond,” Lechleiter insisted.

These will be needed to replace, among other things, sales of its out-of-patent antipsychotic Zyprexa. Once Lilly’s biggest seller bringing in $5 billion in 2010, sales of the drug fell 30% year-on-year to $1.2 billion in 2013.

Shareholders did quite well last year, receiving around $3.8 billion in dividends and share buybacks by the company - $500 million of which was in Q4.

Adam Hill

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