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Published on 12/05/14 at 05:15pm

2013 turnover: $23.1 billion / 2012 turnover: $22.6 billion

2013 biggest drug: Cymbalta (duloxetine) for depression and anxiety disorder brought in $5.1 billion for Lilly 

Founded by US Civil War veteran Colonel Eli Lilly in 1876, Lilly’s major breakthrough therapy was Iletin, the world’s first commercially available insulin product. Launched in 1923, it provided a lifeline for what was previously a deadly condition with no effective treatment. 

Lilly’s most iconic brand of the 20th century, however, is arguably the anti-depressant Prozac (fluoxetine), which was first approved in the US in 1987. Part of a new wave of selective serotonin uptake inhibitors, the drug grew rapidly in popularity and enjoyed peak sales of $2.8 billion.

However, nearly three decade on, it’s name has become synonymous with what Pulitzer Prize-winning doctor Siddhartha Mukherjee calls “a pill-happy culture searching for quick fixes for complex mental problems” as antidepressants have, in the popular imagination, turned into “the new villains of modern psychopharmacology - overhyped, overprescribed”. 

Nevertheless, this class of drug has been lucrative for Lilly, with its current top-seller Cymbalta (duloxetine) bringing in more than $5 billion in 2013. The drug’s patent expiry is expected to be a major blow to the firm’s bottom line in 2014.

View Lilly's pipeline

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