Lilly sees sales fall but reaffirms 2015 revenue guidance

Eli Lilly
Eli Lilly

Eli Lilly's revenue fell 1% to $4.64 billion in the first quarter but the drugmaker told investors this is the year the company will return to growth.

New revenue from its animal health division, which it acquired from Novartis in January, filled out the sales figures, and an uptick in the sales of cancer medication Cyramza (ramucirumab) and diabetes treatment Humalog (insulin lispro) helped offset declining sales of other products.

Sales of depression drug Cymbalta (duloxetine) fell 40% to $287 million in the first quarter, compared to $478 million for the same three-month period last year, and a 55% dive in sales of osteoporosis drug Evista (raloxifene) to $66.8 million in the first quarter of 2015, compared to $150 million in the first quarter of 2014, is due to generic competition. Cymbalta's patent expired in 2013, and Evista's lapsed in 2014.

Net income fell 27% to $529.5 million in the quarter, compared to $727.9 million in the same period last year.

Lilly affirmed revenue guidance between $19.5 billion and $20 billion for 2015, but it dialed down anticipated marketing, selling and administrative expenses from between $6.5 billion and $6.8 billion to between $6.4 billion and $6.7 billion.

Charging higher prices for some drugs boosted sales, such as for its ADHD medication Strattera (atomoxetine), which saw sales jump 31% in the US, while sales outside the US fell 9%. Worldwide Strattera sales grew 13% to $173.7 million in the quarter, compared to $154.4 million for the same year-earlier period. Sales of blood-clot drug Effient (prasugrel) rose 2% to $121.8 million, compared to $119.3 million a year earlier. Higher prices boosted Effient's US sales, counterbalancing a fall in demand.

Lilly said diabetes medication Trulicity (dulaglutide) continues to gain ground since its November launch. Enrique Conterno, Lilly's president of the diabetes business unit, told investors the GLP-1 receptor agonist could be a catalyst for the class. He said the company has expanded its marketing focus from endocrinologists to include primary care providers, but it has not yet decided on its direct-to-consumer marketing plans.

Conterno said just-approved diabetes medication Glyxambi (empagliflozin/linagliptin), made with partner Boehringer Ingelheim, is not expected to steal patients from other brands, including Jardiance (empagliflozin), which is also the result of a Lilly-BI partnership. Glyxambi is intended for patients who are not getting sufficient results with metformin. Lilly's Lantus biosimilar, which has been under close analyst watch, will probably hit the US market in the third quarter of 2016 if approved. The drug could launch sooner if the 30-month embargo imposed by Sanofi's patent lawsuit lifts earlier than expected.

Lilly said it remains confident in the DPP-IV inhibitor class, which includes its diabetes medication Tradjenta (linagliptin), despite a recent FDA panel vote to change the label for AstraZeneca's Onglyza (saxagliptin) over heart-failure concerns. Conterno told investors that Tradjenta does not have the same risks as Onglyza.

Despite a 9% dip in quarterly sales of cancer drug Alimta (pemetrexed) to $573 million, Lilly said the treatment still has prospects despite competition from the new class of PD-1 inhibitors, which includes Bristol-Myers Squibb's Opdivo (nivolumab) and Merck's Keytruda (pembrolizumab).

Susan Mahony, president of Lilly's oncology business, explained that Alimta's first-line setting gives it some distance from these second-line treatments and noted that collaborations, such as one it has with Merck, are designed to explore how Alimta could work as part of a PD-1 regimen.

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