Eli Lilly's COVID-19 antibody sales crater as variants, vaccines take a toll

Greater vaccine access and pesky coronavirus variants are taking the wind out of Eli Lilly’s COVID-19 antibodies.

That was clear in the company second-quarter results, which reflected an expeditious drop in Lilly’s antibody sales over the past three months. 

Lilly’s COVID-19 antibodies raked in $148.9 million during the quarter, an 82% drop from the $810.1 million the drugs generated during the first quarter this year. That includes sales of bamlanivimab, plus Lilly’s combo treatment that pairs that drug with etesevimab. 

Neither of Lilly’s treatments, however, are being deployed in the U.S. amid the rapid rise of variants. In early April, the FDA revoked its authorization for bamlanivimab alone after the mutations proved resistant to the solo treatment. 

Luckily for Lilly, the drugmaker had the combo treatment at the ready after scoring an FDA emergency nod in February. But as fate would have it, the U.S. ended its distribution of the cocktail in late June when studies showed that the treatment didn’t thwart the Gamma and Beta variants, first found in Brazil and South Africa, respectively. 

The Indianapolis-based company is dampening its sales expectations for the treatments once again, providing a new forecast of $1 billion to $1.1 billion this year. Since the drugs have already generated around $950 million this year, the new estimate indicates that Lilly doesn't expect much more from the drugs this year.

RELATED: Lilly's COVID antibody combo halted nationwide, dealing huge blow to blockbuster program

Meanwhile, Lilly has another COVID-19 option up its sleeve for hospitalized patients.

Just before its earnings drop on Tuesday, Lilly and its partner Incyte said the pair’s arthritis drug, baricitinib, reduced the risk of death for COVID patients needing mechanical ventilation, citing new, non-peer reviewed data from a late-stage study. 

In a subgroup of 101 adult patients on a ventilator, those who received baricitinib and standard of care were 46% less likely to die after four weeks compared with patients who received placebo plus standard of care. The company said it plans to share the new data with global regulatory authorities. 

RELATED: Eli Lilly taps 3 Indian drugmakers to bolster supply of COVID-19 drug baricitinib

The FDA last week expanded its emergency nod for baricitinib in hospitalized COVID-19 patients, allowing the treatment to be administered on its own. The drug was previously authorized alongside Gilead Science’s remdesivir in patients requiring supplemental oxygen. 

In the second quarter, Lilly reported $208.4 million in sales for Olumiant, baricitinib’s brand name for rheumatoid arthritis. That was a 44% increase compared with the same period last year, when sales rang in at $145 million.