Lilly boosts insulin sales force

Eli Lilly added reps from a contract sales organization this year in an effort to jumpstart growth of its insulin business. The outsourcing deal increases the size of the Humalog sales force by 40%, the company said, and follows the US launch by Lilly of two insulin pen devices. The new personnel began in February. “We remain committed to the reacceleration of this important franchise,” Lilly told analysts Monday. US Humalog sales grew 11% to $340 million in the first quarter, from $305 million during the same period last year, the company said. However, in an investor note, Prudential's Tim Anderson noted that total Humalog prescription growth is nil. Stiffer competition in the diabetes market will continue to pressure Lilly's insulin franchise, Anderson wrote. Competitor launches of oral and inhalable delivery systems are a big factor, acknowledged John Lechleiter, Lilly president and COO. To compete Lilly plans to introduce five new insulin pen delivery devices globally, including three in the US. “Here in the US, this is still far from a converted market,” Lechleiter said. “It's still mostly a vial and syringe market in contrast to most of the other insulin markets around the world.” Of the two pens, HumaPen Memoir uses an embedded chip to record the date, time and amount of a patients’ last 16 doses. The Luxura half-unit pen is designed for parents and caregivers of children with diabetes. New drugs threaten other areas of Lilly's diabetes portfolio. Sales of Byetta, its injectable glucose control drug which it co-markets with Amylin Pharmaceuticals, have been hurt by Januvia, Merck’s oral type 2 diabetes drug launched last year. Byetta's US sales came in at $147 million, a 7% increase over the $68 million seen in first quarter 2006. Here again, though, prescription growth remains "fairly anemic," Anderson wrote. Amylin says part of the reason for slower trends is due to heavy sampling of the drug. Sales of Humulin, Lilly's recombinant DNA insulin product, rose just 3% to $226 million, from $219 million during the year-ago period.