Lilly President and Chief Operating Officer made the comment while discussing the Indianapolis drugmaker's third-quarter results. Profit was up 6 percent, to $926.3 million, from a year earlier.
Sales of Lilly's Humalog inhaled insulin increased 12 percent in the quarter, to $363 million, despite losing market share. Still, Humalog's brand preference increased.
"We are not where we want to be with Humalog in the U.S. but the story is much better now than a year ago," Lechleiter said.
The optimism about Humalog was in stark contrast to Pfizer's announcement that it would stop Exubera production at its plant in Terre Haute. Pfizer had said it would stop selling the drug. Now, 600 of the 750 workers at the plant have been put on paid leave as the company weighs its options for the site.
Lilly's results demonstrated that it is following through on a game plan of stabilizing sales of Zyprexa and insulin, growing sales of new products and investing in promising research compounds.
Sales increased 13 percent, to $4.59 billion. Excluding an unfavorable insurance outcome, profit surged 20 percent to $996.4 million, or 91 cents per share.
Those gains were highlighted by Cymbalta, which is on pace to reach $2 billion in sales this year. The antidepressant is nearing rarefied sales totals once held by Lilly's landmark drug, Prozac. Also, impotence drug Cialis, diabetes pill Byetta, osteoporosis drug Forteo and cancer drug Alimta posted rapid growth.
Lilly also squeezed out sales gains from its bestseller Zyprexa, using price increases to offset a decline in prescription volume. Generic Zyprexa hit the Canadian market in the third quarter. Generics will go on sale in Germany in the fourth quarter.
While the volume of Zyprexa prescriptions fell again, price increases boosted its overall sales 12 percent.
As part of the earnings report, Lilly also announced a licensing agreement with
Maryland-based MacroGenics, which is developing a compound called teplizumab to treat auto-immune diseases. Lilly will pay MacroGenics $44 million in initial payments, but did not give other details of the arrangement.
Lilly stock this morning was flat-rising 7 cents per share to $56.96.