Effient - Pharma's Biggest Flops
Company name: Eli Lilly
Year approved: 2009
The promise: When Eli Lilly's blood thinner was first unveiled, it was touted as a potential Plavix-killer, Bristol-Myers Squibb's billion-dollar blockbuster. Analysts estimated the drug would sell anywhere between $300 million to $1.6 billion per year
What went wrong: Effient's bad news started right out of the gate. In July 2009, the FDA approved black-box warnings on the drug for angioplasty patients due to increased bleeding risks. Though the drug's third quarter 2009 sales were promising, at $35 million, revenue nosedived in the next three months, to $3.8 million. However, the sour sophomore quarter didn't faze Lilly CEO John Lechleiter; he maintained that the drop was to be expected, as hospitals created stockpiles during the previous quarter and now had to establish their usage of the drug.
But analysts weren't as optimistic. Medco decided to run its own trial, comparing Effient to Plavix, and a Goldman Sachs analyst bore some bad news to the press: "Even if the company isn't ready to give up on Effient, we are."
After a disappointing first year, Eli Lilly is trying a new sales tactic: pushing doctors to use the competitor, Plavix, and watch the drug's efficacy. If it burrs enough holes in doctors' confidence in Plavix, the company hopes it will sway more sales toward Effient.