Eli Lilly, Boehringer shake up diabetes deal to focus on hot property Jardiance

Pen on a business contract
Eli Lilly and BI on Monday rolled out some changes to their 2011 diabetes partnership. (SARINYAPINNGAM / iStock / Getty Images Plus)

Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim have stormed to a market-leading position with their SGLT-2 diabetes drug Jardiance, and they’re pushing that med to the forefront of their longstanding diabetes partnership.

The two will no longer share Trajenta, a DPP-4 diabetes treatment whose key patent is set to expire in 2023, and its sister combination meds. Nor will they collaborate on Basaglar, a biosimilar version of Sanofi's once-dominant basal insulin Lantus. 

Instead, the partners tweaked their 2011 alliance deal to continue cooperating on Jardiance, which grew a whopping 47% last year to more than $2 billion worldwide, but send Trajenta to Boehringer's stable and Basaglar to Lilly's.

Not only is Jardiance the top SGLT-2 drug by market share in the U.S. and “many markets worldwide,” as the partners said Monday. It also has many years of patent life left to go. Trajenta, on the other hand, could see generic copycats in 2023 if not sooner, and is likely to go up against generic versions of its top in-class competitor, Merck & Co.'s Januvia, in 2022.

According to Lilly's 2018 annual report, Jardiance revenues grew 7% for the pharma last year to $575 million, while Boehringer posted €1.4 billion ($1.56 billion) in sales. Basaglar, meanwhile, grew 85% for Lilly to deliver $801 million in 2018 sales.

A Lilly spokesman said via email the "decision reflects the natural lifecycle of drug development and commercialization, and allows for continued focus on maximizing the benefits" of the drugs. He said the "investment and staffing of the alliance will remain competitive."

BI head of global therapeutic areas Carine Brouillon said in a statement the move “will not only result in greater value for both companies but better enable us to help more people with and without type 2 diabetes." Lilly’s Mike Mason, who's set to be the company’s diabetes president in January, added that Jardiance has a “bright future” and that the partners are “absolutely committed to its success.”

Jardiance has been on a roll despite the crowded diabetes field, but that competition is set to escalate with Novo Nordisk’s new approval for Rybelsus, the first oral GLP-1 option.

While Jardiance is already approved for patients with type 2 diabetes, the companies are conducting studies and seeking additional approvals for patients who suffer from heart failure and chronic kidney disease. The drug is also up for FDA review in type 1 diabetes. 

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The companies entered their 2011 alliance to combine resources on drugs in "several of the largest diabetes treatment classes," including insulin glargine—a.k.a. Basaglar—the DPP-4 inhibitor Trajenta and the SGLT-2 option Jardiance.

After an approval in 2014, Eli Lilly reported $658 million in Jardiance revenue last year while BI recorded €1.46 billion ($1.63 billion). So far in 2019, Lilly has reported $676 million from the drug.

Aside from Jardiance, the other drugs in the alliance continue to chip in meaningful sales. BI reported Trajenta revenue of €1.4 billion ($1.56 billion) last year, while Lilly posted $575 million.

Basaglar sales reached $801 million in 2018 on Lilly's financial statements, while Boehringer, a privately owned company, didn't report numbers for that drug. This year, Lilly has tallied $805 million from Basaglar.