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Lilly to focus on cancer, diabetes in China, CEO says

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Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. will introduce “over a dozen” new products in China in the next five years, focusing on “unmet needs” such as cancer and diabetes, CEO John Lechleiter said this week.

“We are increasing our investments in every aspect of our business in China,” Lechleiter told reporters at a briefing in Beijing.

The company’s China sales force doubled in the last three years, to more than 3,600 in the country, he said. And company sales grew 25 percent in China in 2011, higher than the industry average.

Diabetes treatments have been one of the biggest drivers of Lilly’s growth in China. The company opened a diabetes research center in Shanghai last year.

“Our goal is to be the fastest growing pharmaceutical company in China,” Lechleiter said.

Drugmakers may face pressure on margins in China because the government is vowing to cut drug prices in an overhaul of the country’s health-care system aimed at trimming the cost of caring for an aging population.

Lilly also hopes to make progress in China with non-diabetes and cancer drugs. The company is confident its Cialis drug for treating erectile dysfunction can overtake Pfizer’s Viagra in China, Lilly China president Eric Baclet said. Lilly introduced Cialis in China in 2009.

“On beating Viagra, in our quest for leadership in some of these China cities, we feel very confident about this,” Baclet told reporters in Beijing.
 

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