Lilly eyes up to $2B in COVID-19 sales by year-end—plus revenue boosts in cancer, diabetes and more

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Eli Lilly investors applauded the company's improved 2020 outlook. (Phongphan/Shutterstock)

Eli Lilly has the rare distinction of scoring not just one, but two, FDA emergency use authorizations for COVID-19 therapeutics—and now we know what that distinction will deliver to its top and bottom lines.

Lilly said Tuesday its COVID antibody treatment, bamlanivimab, and its immunology med Olumiant, cleared for use in patients needing oxygen, will add between $1 billion and $2 billion to sales this year.

But the company is also seeing strong demand for several core products, such as diabetes drug Trulicity, psoriasis hit Taltz and breast cancer treatment Verzenio, the company said.

Altogether, that adds up to a boost for Lilly's year-end forecast. The company hiked its revenue predictions by a half-billion to $24.2 billion to $24.7 billion and said adjusted earnings per share should come in between $7.45 and $7.65, up from a previous estimate of $7.20 to $7.40. Analysts on average had been expecting Lilly’s adjusted EPS to be $7.24 for the year.

And what about next year? The company figures revenues will fall between $26.5 billion to $28 billion and earnings between $7.25 to $7.90.

Lilly unveiled its sunny forecast in conjunction with a deal to acquire gene therapy company Prevail Therapeutics for $1 billion. Lilly’s shares rose nearly 2% in premarket trading to $160.69

RELATED: Lilly's Trulicity slips as COVID-19 insurance changes trigger price declines

It’s no wonder investors were pleasantly surprised. In the third quarter, Trulicity sales actually fell to $1.1 billion from $1.23 billion in Q2, missing analysts’ projections. CEO David Ricks blamed the shortfall on drug discounting in the Medicare coverage gap.

At the time, it wasn’t clear bamlanivimab would get an EUA in COVID, especially because the NIH sidelined a trial of the drug in hospitalized COVID-19 patients. Ultimately the FDA authorized the anti-SARS-CoV-2 antibody in November for patients who aren't hospitalized but face a high risk of becoming severely ill.

Ten days later, the agency cleared Olumiant for use with Gilead’s Veklury (remdesivir) in hospitalized patients needing oxygen. That decision was based on a government study showing the combo boosted the odds of clinical improvement by 30% after 15 days. Lilly started testing Olumiant in COVID over the summer after an artificial intelligence analysis suggested it could control the dangerous immune overreaction that lands some patients in the hospital.

Olumiant’s primary use is as a rheumatoid arthritis treatment, and it’s been performing well there, too. During the third quarter, sales of Olumiant soared 41% year-over-year to $162 million, driven largely by overseas demand.

RELATED: Lilly makes another gene therapy play with $1B deal to buy Prevail TX

Lilly’s recent effort to grow its oncology portfolio seems to be gaining ground, too. In addition to seeing rising demand for Verzenio, the company cited strong sales of solid-tumor treatment Cyramza, PD-1 inhibitior Tyvyt and targeted lung cancer drug Retevmo as a contributor to its improved full-year outlook.

Now Lilly is establishing itself as a major player in gene therapy. Prevail is in early testing of PR001 to treat GBA1-positive Parkinson’s and neuronopathic Gaucher, and it is working on a second gene therapy for frontotemporal dementia. The acquisition comes less than a month after Lilly partnered with Precision BioSciences to develop gene therapies in a deal that could be worth more than $2.6 billion.