Amylin gets Byetta custody in split with Lilly

It's splitsville for Eli Lilly and Amylin Pharmaceuticals. The diabetes-drug partners have decided to go their separate ways, with Amylin ($AMLN) paying Lilly $250 million for the rights to exanatide products, including Byetta, their currently marketed type 2 diabetes remedy. Lilly ($LLY) also gets a $1.2 billion cut of future sales of Byetta and follow-up products, including the long-acting version known as Bydureon.

The companies started out on an upswing with Byetta's debut in 2005, but sales of the drug have declined since then, thanks in part to worries about links to pancreatitis--and by extension, pancreatic cancer. Byetta also got new competition in the form of newer GLP-1 drugs, including Novo Nordisk's Victoza. Meanwhile, their bid to gain FDA approval for Bydureon has hit repeated setbacks.

But it was Lilly's infidelity that sparked the lawsuit leading to the partnership's demise. Lilly agreed to market Boehringer Ingelheim's new diabetes drug Tradjenta, which won FDA approval in May. Lilly and Boehringer launched the new drug soon after the FDA nod, but not before Amylin sued, claiming that Lilly had violated their partnership deal. Amylin asked for an injunction against Lilly's marketing of Tradjenta, but a federal judge denied it.

Now, the two partners have come to a settlement. Amylin gets full custody of Byetta; Lilly will transfer Byetta commercial work to Amylin by Nov. 30 in the U.S. Lilly's Byetta and Bydureon operations in Europe will move market-by-market over 2012 and 2013. If Bydureon wins FDA approval by June 30, 2014, Amylin will hand over 15% of ongoing net sales of exanatide products, up to $1.2 billion. If not, Amylin will pay an 8% share of sales.

Amylin CEO Daniel Bradbury told Reuters that flying solo on exanatide will be a good thing. "It is important for people to appreciate the value of having a single organization with focus and accountability for the launch of a new product and the efficiency that that will bring," Bradbury said. And in a move that may have some sales folks polishing their resumes--particularly those facing layoffs elsewhere--Bradbury said Amylin plans to have 650 reps on the job by February.

- see the joint press release

- get the Reuters news

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