Eli Lilly and Co. and Health Care & Life Sciences and Health Care & Insurance

Bad news piles up for Lilly

August 18, 2010

What a tough week for Lilly. On Thursday, a judge struck down the Indianapolis-based drugmaker’s U.S. patent on Strattera, which might cost the company about $450 million in annual revenue. Then on Tuesday, Lilly halted clinical trials on one of its experimental Alzheimer’s medicines, because patients did worse on the drug than on a placebo.

The company’s stock price has dropped 5 percent since the Strattera news, closing Tuesday at $34.75.

The company needs to hold on to all the revenue it can before five star drugs watch their patents expire between now and 2014.

But Lilly keeps shooting blanks in late-stage clinical trials. The Alzheimer’s drug is one of several in the past year that have failed in the last step before market approval.

Lilly did get some good news on Tuesday. Its Cymbalta antidepressant appears to be effective against chronic pain. If the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approves the new use of the drug, it could add $500 million a year in sales, according to one analyst’s estimate.

However, the FDA’s staff who reviewed the Cymbalta pain studies questioned some of the statistical methods they used as well as a possibility for Cymbalta to cause liver toxicity, according to Reuters. An outside panel of experts will now review the data and make a non-binding recommendation.

Lilly moved to block generic versions of Strattera, a medicine for hyperactivity, from coming on the market until it appeals the federal judge’s ruling.

Also, even after the failure of its Alzheimer’s medicine semagacestat, Lilly still has one other Alzheimer’s remedy in clinical testing.

Lilly is counting on its pipeline of nearly 70 compounds to generate new revenue. But Wall Street analysts and investors aren't buying that message. They say Lilly must make an acquisition to soften its patent expirations until it can get new drugs to market.

For more on Lilly's long-term outlook, read this IBJ story.

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