Eli Lilly's new launches step up in time to fill the growing Cialis gap

Eli Lilly
Eli Lilly started facing generic competition to its erectile dysfunction blockbuster Cialis back in September. (Eli Lilly)

Lilly is feeling the sting of Cialis generics, but luckily for the drugmaker, new launches are starting to contribute in a big way.

In the third quarter, as pricing has increasingly come under the spotlight in the U.S., Eli Lilly’s pharmaceutical volumes grew (PDF) 17% in the key market, largely because of new launches. And that volume growth was the drugmaker’s best quarterly performance in a decade, executives said on a conference call Tuesday.  

All told in the third quarter, Lilly’s revenues jumped 7% to more than $6 billion as many older drugs suffered due to pricing and competitive dynamics. At the same time, Lilly has a stable of new drugs on the upswing, including diabetes drug Trulicity, which grew year-to-date sales to more than $2.2 billion. 

For an idea of the size of the revenue hole Lilly needs to fill, sales for the erectile dysfunction drug fell 17% to $467 million after generic drug giant Teva launched a copycat version in September. ADHD medication Strattera, another Lilly drug facing generic competition, slipped 28% to $99 million.

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But 10 new medicines launched since 2014 are kicking in growth, Lilly leadership said. Those launches include diabetes drugs Jardiance and Trulicity, autoimmune meds Taltz and Olumiant, plus Lartruvo and Verzenio in cancer. 

“We expect the volume for those products to more than compensate” for challenges, CFO Joshua Smiley said. 

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Sales for Taltz, launched in 2016, grew 74% on the quarter to $263 million. Trulicity sales climbed 55% over last year's third quarter to $816 million. Basaglar, Jardiance and Lartruvo also chipped in, with their sales up 38%, 31% and 41%, respectively, over the same period last year.

Analysts were already looking toward 2019, pushing Lilly executives to outline what's next. Cialis generics are the “main headwind,” they said, but Lilly will also feel the pain from new Medicare doughnut hole changes implemented by the federal government. The changes force drugmakers to pony up bigger discounts in Medicare’s coverage gap, and Lilly executives said the hit will amount to about $200 million next year.

RELATED: Lilly’s Emgality nabs third-to-market migraine nod but aims to be 'treatment of choice' in CGRP 

Meanwhile, the company is in very early stages of its launch for Emgality, a new CGRP migraine med Lilly hopes can be the “treatment of choice” above rivals from Amgen and Teva. On Tuesday’s call, Lilly Bio-Medicines president Christi Shaw said the company is “extremely excited” about the market and happy with its label. Already since the approval, Emgality has picked up an important coverage decision from Express Scripts, which opted to shut out Teva’s option.