Taurel predicts flat Zyprexa sales

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Safety jitters will cause sales of Eli Lilly and Co.’s Zyprexa schizophrenia drug to stop growing this year and stabilize at 2006 levels, CEO Sidney Taurel told reporters yesterday following a meeting at the Chief Executive’s Club at Boston College.

The blockbuster drug has been blamed for weight gain and triggering diabetes in some patients.

"They (patients) can use it for awhile, and if they find out there’s too much weight gain, they can switch to something else," said Taurel, quoted by Market Watch. "I think the product has found its positioning that way and that’s why sales have stabilized."

The drug generated $4.4 billion for the Indianapolis drugmaker last year. Lilly paid nearly $500 million in the fourth quarter to settle about 18,000 legal cases filed by Zyprexa users.

Taurel also said Lilly is closely watching Pfizer Inc. to learn from mistakes it is making launching its Exubera inhaled insulin. Lilly plans to introduce its Alkermes rival in a smaller, easier-to-handle device.

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