Lilly drops osteoporosis pipeline drug

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Eli Lilly and Co. pulled the plug on yet another drug in its pipeline that was in the late stages of testing, further complicating the company’s attempts to find revenue before losing patent protection on its bestseller.

The Indianapolis-based drugmaker announced today that its experimental osteoporosis drug arzoxifene proved effective at treating the disease, but did not prove substantially more effective than existing treatments.

The company will discontinue its Phase 3 clinical trial of the drug. Doing so will force the company to take an after-tax charge of $35 million to $45 million, or 3 to 4 cents per share. However, Lilly affirmed its previous year-end profit forecast of $4.14 to $4.24 per share.

"At Lilly, our goal is to provide innovative therapies that result in better patient outcomes," said M. Johnston Erwin, global brand development leader for the musculoskeletal platform at Lilly. "We are disappointed that the ... data did not convincingly demonstrate that arzoxifene would represent a meaningful advancement in the treatment of osteoporosis."

In July, Lilly and a development partner canceled a Phase 3 trial of a multiple sclerosis medicine because it failed to delay progression of the disease in patients.

Lilly needs new blockbuster drugs because it will lose about $4.7 billion in revenue when its bestseller Zyprexa loses patent protection in late 2011. At least four other top-selling Lilly drugs will also lose sales to generic copies between 2012 and 2014. 



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