IBJNews

Lilly falls short on 'field goal' attempt

Back to TopCommentsE-mailPrintBookmark and Share

Eli Lilly and Co.’s “miss” on a new use for its cancer drug Alimta was a rare failure to get an existing drug approved for a new use—even though the company has struggled mightily to get entirely new drugs to market.

The Indianapolis-based drugmaker announced Monday that it will not submit Alimta to regulators as a treatment for head and neck cancer. That’s another setback for Lilly, which is desperately trying to find new sales streams before it starts hemorraghing revenue a year from now when its bestseller Zyprexa loses patent protection in the United States and Europe.

Alimta has been Lilly’s fastest-growing drug the past two years, generating $1.1 billion in sales during the first half of this year. Having approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to use the drug for treating head and neck cancers certainly would have added to that total.

But a Phase 3 clinical trial showed that cancer patients taking Alimta and the chemotherapy agent cisplatin only saw insignificant benefits compared with patients taking cisplatin alone.

In the pharma world, approval for entirely new drugs is like scoring touchdowns—they get the most points (er, dollars) on the board. But approval for additional uses for an existing drug, known as a line extension, are like field goals—they still add to the score.

Line extensions are a big reason why Lilly’s sales soared from 2006 to 2009, rising nearly 40 percent, even though the company won approval for only one new drug. (And that new drug, the blood thinner Effient, has seen insignificant sales to date.)

Some of the line extensions Lilly has won approval for include the antidepressant Cymbalta as a treatment for generalized anxiety and fibromyalgia, the erectile-dysfunction drug Cialis as a treatment for hypertension, the osteoporosis drug Evista to treat breast cancer, and a once-a-month version of the antipsychotic Zyprexa.

But Lilly has drawn far more attention for its high-profile failures on experimental drugs. In August, it halted a trial of an Alzheimer’s medicine because it actually made patients worse. Lilly drugs designed to treat multiple sclerosis, osteoprosis and diabetic eye disease also have failed in recent years.

As a result of Lilly’s innovation drought, the company is looking to acquire molecules from smaller companies that have a shot at producing revenue in 2014. That will be Lilly’s most difficult year, coming right after Lilly’s No. 2 drug Cymbalta will lose patent protection.

"Our company situation means we're particularly interested in late-stage opportunities that can be revenue-generating in 2014," Jan Lundberg, president of Lilly's research arm, told the Wall Street Journal in a September interview.

Lilly has looked at roughly 1,000 potential acquisition targets this year, but has done deals with only a few companies, Lundberg said. He added that the financial struggles of biotech companies since the 2008 financial meltdown give Lilly lots of targets to consider.

ADVERTISEMENT

  • Zyprexa saga
    Eli Lilly & Co's once-a-month version of its top-selling antipsychotic medicine Zyprexa, while effective, has risks that include excessive sleepiness, U.S. regulators said.

Post a comment to this story

COMMENTS POLICY
We reserve the right to remove any post that we feel is obscene, profane, vulgar, racist, sexually explicit, abusive, or hateful.
 
You are legally responsible for what you post and your anonymity is not guaranteed.
 
Posts that insult, defame, threaten, harass or abuse other readers or people mentioned in IBJ editorial content are also subject to removal. Please respect the privacy of individuals and refrain from posting personal information.
 
No solicitations, spamming or advertisements are allowed. Readers may post links to other informational websites that are relevant to the topic at hand, but please do not link to objectionable material.
 
We may remove messages that are unrelated to the topic, encourage illegal activity, use all capital letters or are unreadable.
 

Messages that are flagged by readers as objectionable will be reviewed and may or may not be removed. Please do not flag a post simply because you disagree with it.

Sponsored by
ADVERTISEMENT

facebook - twitter on Facebook & Twitter

Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ on Facebook:
Follow on TwitterFollow IBJ's Tweets on these topics:
 
Subscribe to IBJ
  1. By Mr. Lee's own admission, he basically ran pro-bono ads on the billboard. Paying advertisers didn't want ads on a controversial, ugly billboard that turned off customers. At least one of Mr. Lee's free advertisers dropped out early because they found that Mr. Lee's advertising was having negative impact. So Mr. Lee is disingenous to say the city now owes him for lost revenue. Mr. Lee quickly realized his monstrosity had a dim future and is trying to get the city to bail him out. And that's why the billboard came down so quickly.

  2. Merchants Square is back. The small strip center to the south of 116th is 100% leased, McAlister’s is doing well in the outlot building. The former O’Charleys is leased but is going through permitting with the State and the town of Carmel. Mac Grill is closing all of their Indy locations (not just Merchants) and this will allow for a new restaurant concept to backfill both of their locations. As for the north side of 116th a new dinner movie theater and brewery is under construction to fill most of the vacancy left by Hobby Lobby and Old Navy.

  3. Yes it does have an ethics commission which enforce the law which prohibits 12 specific items. google it

  4. Thanks for reading and replying. If you want to see the differentiation for research, speaking and consulting, check out the spreadsheet I linked to at the bottom of the post; it is broken out exactly that way. I can only include so much detail in a blog post before it becomes something other than a blog post.

  5. 1. There is no allegation of corruption, Marty, to imply otherwise if false. 2. Is the "State Rule" a law? I suspect not. 3. Is Mr. Woodruff obligated via an employment agreement (contractual obligation) to not work with the engineering firm? 4. In many states a right to earn a living will trump non-competes and other contractual obligations, does Mr. Woodruff's personal right to earn a living trump any contractual obligations that might or might not be out there. 5. Lawyers in state government routinely go work for law firms they were formally working with in their regulatory actions. You can see a steady stream to firms like B&D from state government. It would be interesting for IBJ to do a review of current lawyers and find out how their past decisions affected the law firms clients. Since there is a buffer between regulated company and the regulator working for a law firm technically is not in violation of ethics but you have to wonder if decisions were made in favor of certain firms and quid pro quo jobs resulted. Start with the DOI in this review. Very interesting.

ADVERTISEMENT