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Lilly raises 2012 forecast despite Q1 profit slide

CEO Lechleiter pins hopes on pipeline as major patents expire

Eli Lilly was hit once again by generic competition to its antipsychotic Zyprexa in the first quarter, dragging down revenues and net profit by 4 per cent each.

The company made $1bn in profit on revenues of $5.6bn in the quarter, a little ahead of analyst expectations, with the loss of patent protection for Zyprexa (olanzapine) causing sales of the product to slide 56 per cent to $563m.

The company raised its earnings-per-share forecasts for the full year however on the back of gains for some of its newer products, saying it anticipates revenue of $21.8bn-$22.8bn, including a decline of $3bn in Zyprexa sales. In 2011 it posted revenues of $24.3bn.

Among the brighter elements of Lilly's product portfolio in the first quarter was antidepressant Cymbalta (duloxetine), which grew 23 per cent to $1.12bn, and long-acting insulin product Humalog (insulin lispro) which added 12 per cent to reach $590m.

Both these drugs will start to lose patent protection in 2013, however, and Lilly needs to bring new drug candidates to market quickly to help offset the effects of generic competition next year.

Also highlighted by Lilly chief executive John Lechleiter were Forteo (teriparatide) for osteoporosis, up 26 per cent to $271m, and antiplatelet drug Effient (prasugrel) which saw sales more than double to $116m compared to the same quarter of 2011. Sales of lung cancer drug Alimta (pemetrexed) rose 5 per cent to $607m.

"Lilly's financial results in the first quarter represent a solid start to the year," said Lechleiter, who also pointed to the company's pipeline prospects with 12 new drug candidates in phase III testing.

At present all eyes are on Alzheimer's candidate solanezumab - due to generate phase III data later this year - as well as other late-stage candidates such as tabalumab for lupus, ixekizumab for psoriasis, and new diabetes drugs such as dulaglutide and empagliflozin.

26th April 2012

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