Lilly sales fall, drugmaker to keep rep count low

Lilly sales fall, drugmaker to keep rep count low
Lilly sales fall, drugmaker to keep rep count low

The “tough year” Eli Lilly's CEO John Leichleiter discussed in a Monday interview with the Wall Street Journal revealed itself in Thursday's earnings report which showed sales fell 16% for the quarter and were down 16% for the first nine months of the year, compared to the same periods in 2014. The company also dialed back the year's revenue guidance from between $19.4 and $20 billion to $19.4 and $19.8 billion.

Patent losses drove down sales of mood drug Cymbalta by 73% to $368 million, and dragged down sales of the bone drug Evista 65%, to just under $90 million, compared to the same year-ago periods.

Company efforts to limit the impact of this fall-off included scaling back marketing and selling expenses, and executives said Thursday that it does not expect to replenish the sales forces it thinned in anticipation of Cymbalta and Evista's patent losses. SVP and president of the Lilly Bio-Medicines unit, David Ricks, told investors that the company has sufficient personnel to talk up its products and noted that a smaller sales presence makes sense, given Lilly's increased focus on specialty medications.

It is still early for the new diabetes SGLT-2 inhibitor Jardiance (empagliflozin) and the GLP-1 Trulicity (dulaglutide) but diabetes division head Enrique Conterno says there is clear elasticity in the space. Conterno added that he's seen an increased uptake in SGLT-2s at the expense of sulfonylureas, which have typically been the next step after metformin.

He added that new drugs for existing classes have to muscle their way into becoming accessible, and that the typical formulary pathway includes tier or step-therapy restrictions. This could mean having to try an SGLT-2 inhibitor before getting payer approval for Jardiance or a GLP-1 other than Trulicity before a patient can fill a prescription for the newer in-class medications.