Eli Lilly has posted higher-than-expected profit on the back of increasing demand for its newly launched drugs, despite fighting continued price erosion and pressure in the US.
The US-based pharma giant reported earnings per share of $1.73, with total sales in the quarter jumping to $6.1bn.
The sales growth includes diabetes drug Trulicity (dulaglutide), which grew by nearly 31% to bring in $1.21bn in the quarter – accounting for around a fifth of total sales.
Sales of its psoriasis treatment Taltz (ixekizumab) also rose about 37% to $420m, driven by increased demand for the drug.
For the full year, the pharma company posted $22.3bn in sales, up by 4% from 2018. Out of that, revenue in the US was up 3% between 2018 and 2019, to $12.7bn. Following the impressive announcement, shares climbed 1.5% as investors rallied on the surprising results.
Lilly shares initially dropped 1% following an announcement that it had no plans for further trials of experimental lung cancer drug pegliodecakin due to disappointing trial results.
“With Trulicity and Taltz looking very strong relative to expectations and growth not being dampened by any competition or pricing, that’s more the focus for investors,” UBS analyst Navin Jacob told Reuters.
At the beginning of the year, Lilly had been facing pricing pressure due to increasing demand in the US market for rebates and discounts. Despite the fairly disappointing start, the company’s key growth products have snowballed as demand for them continues to grow, offsetting pricing discounts.
“We look forward to continuing this progress in 2020, as our scientists work to expand our portfolio of innovative medicines to offer new treatment options for patients in the areas of diabetes, oncology, immunology and neuroscience,” said David Ricks, Lilly's chairman and CEO.
Looking forward to 2020, Lilly now expects sales of at least $23.7bn, an increase on previous guidance of $23.6bn.
It will also look to expand its focus on oncology, following its acquisition of Loxo Oncology last year. Lilly’s dependence on Loxo’s pipeline will grow, given the fact that the company has halted development of three experimental cancer drugs.
This includes TGF-beta R1 kinase inhibitor galunisertib, which had been in trial in lung and liver cancer.
Although no specific details were provided on the discontinuation of the drugs, Lilly told FierceBiotech that these asset were being “wound down and terminated as part of our effort to focus the pipeline on higher conviction programmes with the greatest potential for patients and pipeline assessment is ongoing”.