Eli Lilly and Co. is starting a service program that sends employees around the world to help developing communities and learn about other cultures, as the drugmaker looks to international markets to help counter expected sales losses from patent expirations for key products.
The Indianapolis-based company's "Connecting Hearts Abroad" program will send groups of eight or nine employees on 23 two-week trips this year, starting Saturday in New Delhi, India. The employees will help with health care, teaching and caregiving for the elderly and infants, among other activities.
Other countries on the program's travel schedule include Thailand, China, Russia, Brazil and Costa Rica.
Lilly aims to give the employees it sends on the trips a new world view that makes them think differently about their jobs and helps raise the company's "cultural IQ," spokesman David Marbaugh said. The trips will help Lilly learn more about markets like China and Russia, which it has targeted as key sources for future growth.
The company loses U.S. patent protection for its top-selling drug, the antipsychotic Zyprexa, in October, which exposes the drug to generic competition. It also loses protection in 2013 for its second-best seller, the antidepressant Cymbalta, and the insulin Humalog. Lilly has touted its pipeline of drugs under development as a source of future revenue to fill this void, but it also has stressed sales growth in emerging markets and countries like Japan.
A total of 200 Lilly employees will participate in the service program.