As Lilly gears up for key 2022 launches, Trulicity, Taltz and more drive solid growth

While Eli Lilly's Alzheimer's disease hopeful donanemab stole most of the headlines for the drugmaker Tuesday, the company's stable of approved drugs continued on their growth path. The company posted a double-digit sales increase in the third quarter and is getting ready for some highly anticipated launches.

Lilly's diabetes medicine Trulicity, immunology blockbuster Taltz, breast cancer drug Verzenio and migraine prevention medicine Emgality each posted revenue gains of more than 30 percentage points versus the prior quarter, propelling the company to a $6.77 billion quarterly haul. On the flip side, sales for Lilly's insulins Humalog and Humulin, cancer med Alimta and osteoporosis injection Forteo declined amid competitive challenges leading to lower prices.

Overall, Lilly's sales beat consensus estimates by about $170 million. Its earnings per share of $1.94 came in just short of the Street's $1.96 estimate.

Looking ahead, Lilly expects a "difficult" year-over-year revenue comparison in 2022, because the company predicts it will see "limited" sales from its COVID-19 antibodies, Chief Financial Officer Anat Ashkenazi said on a Tuesday conference call. The company projects about $1.3 billion from this year.

Meanwhile, much of the earnings call focused on potential 2022 launches donanemab for Alzheimer's disease and tirzepatide for Type 2 diabetes. Both drugs represent important 2022 launches for a company that's already growing thanks to its new medicines.

The company started a rolling review for the Alzheimer's drug and submitted tirzepatide to the agency with a priority review voucher, it said Tuesday.

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Lilly also kicked off a head-to-head trial of donanemab against Biogen's Aduhelm. Biogen's medicine scored a controversial accelerated approval in June and has seen very limited use during its time on the market. Last week, Biogen reported just $300,000 in third-quarter sales for the drug.

The company doesn't think Aduhelm's struggles mean donanemab will suffer the same fate, neuroscience head Anne White said on the call. While there's "clearly work to do" to strengthen long-term uptake for Alzheimer's antibodies, White said, Lilly plans to focus on improving diagnostic infrastructure, infusion capacity and reimbursement dynamics to support its launch.

The company is "confident we can address these challenges over time," she added.

As for tirzepatide, Lilly already has a sizable diabetes commercial team in place, Ashkenazi said. While the company expects a diabetes indication first, Lilly is also eying a potential use in obesity to challenge Novo Nordisk's new Wegovy.

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After Lilly reported third-quarter results, Cantor Fitzgerald analyst Louise Chen wrote to clients that the company's "earnings outlook is favorable when compared with those of its peers." The company can continue expanding its margin and post "mid-teens" earnings per share growth, she added. Lilly is "entering a period of earnings growth through 2030, bolstered by multiple pipeline readouts of its first-in-class/best-in-class compounds," including donanemab and tirzepatide, she said.