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

Lilly's Cialis finally overtakes Viagra

July 11, 2011

Why do drugmakers still pursue so many me-too drugs? Because, if marketed well, they can be extremely lucrative. Just ask Eli Lilly and Co. about its drug Cialis.

In March, the erectile dysfunction medication overtook Pfizer Inc.’s Viagra in share of the global market for ED drugs.

Given Viagra’s iconic status as the drug that created the market—a drug that became a storyline in late-'90s TV shows like "Ally McBeal" and "Sex in the City," as well as a punchline for the talking heads on ESPN’s "SportsCenter"—that is a remarkable milestone.

Lilly launched Cialis in 2003, more than five years after Viagra pioneered the market. Its marketing campaign began in force—with the somewhat bizarre image of outdoor bathtubs facing a mountain sunset—with TV commercials during the 2004 Super Bowl.

Lilly emphasized the 36-hour window during which Cialis users can have an erection, versus Viagra’s four-hour window.

"This year we will overtake Viagra in terms of the number of prescriptions worldwide," Lilly CEO John Lechleiter told the German publication WirtschaftsWoche, according to a report from Reuters.

In fact, Cialis finally appears to have knocked Viagra out of the No. 1 spot. In March, Cialis claimed about 41 percent of the market compared with Viagra’s 39 percent, according to IMS Health data presented by Lilly to investors on June 30.

Cialis’ biggest success lately has been outside the United States—that is, where Viagra’s cultural hold isn’t as deep. Sales exceeded $1 billion outside the U.S. last year, even though cheaper generic Viagra is available in some countries.

Overall, Cialis sales totaled $1.7 billion last year, an increase of 9 percent over the previous year.

Lilly is now trying to stoke further Cialis sales by pushing it in Europe as a medication for hypertension. It is also seeking U.S. approval for Cialis as a treatment for prostate enlargement—a condition that occurs in half of men who have erectile dysfunction.

Some analysts think those additional uses will keep Cialis sales growing consistently for many more years. Citi analyst John Boris predicts Cialis sales in 2015 of $2.2 billion.

But others think Viagra’s patent expiration in the United States next year will begin to erode Cialis sales. Morgan Stanley analyst David Risinger predicts 2015 Cialis sales of just $1.4 billion.

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