To keep sales force busy, Lilly takes on new drug

Eli Lilly and Co. beefed up its sales force this summer to promote its new blood thinner Effient. But it decided it needed to put at least one more arrow in their quivers.

Indianapolis-based Lilly has agreed to have its U.S. sales personnel promote a new cholesterol-fighting drug developed by Japan-based Kowa Pharamceuticals Ltd., called Livalo.

Financial terms of the deal were not specified. But Lilly will pay Kowa an upfront fee, help shoulder the marketing costs, and then in return receive co-promotion fees that escalate as the drug’s sales go up. Lilly will also license the drug to sell in Latin American countries.

"Our co-promotion arrangement in the U.S. and licensing arrangement in Latin America will allow Lilly to expand our product offerings in the cardiovascular therapeutic area and more efficiently utilize our existing cardiovascular sales force,” said Lilly CEO John Lechleiter, in a statement.

Lilly has only two major products aimed specifically at heart patients: Effient and ReoPro, a drug used for patients undergoing angioplasty or stent procedures, which hit the market in 1995. Both have modest sales, although Effient is expected to eventually achieve annual sales topping $1 billion.

Livalo, approved in the U.S. in August, is a late arrival to a huge party. Cholesterol-fighting drugs, called statins, were the second-best-selling class of drugs in the U.S. last year, with total retail sales of $14.5 billion, according to market research firm IMS Health.

Total dollars in the market have been declining, however, as cheaper generic versions of statins have hit the market the past three years. When the statin Lipitor, the best-selling drug in the world, loses its patent protection in June 2011, price competition will be fierce for Livalo.

But Kowa officials say Livalo appears to help some patients for whom existing statins do not. Also, they emphasize, Livalo has lower chances of negative interactions with other drugs, including clot-busting drug Warfarin.

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