Lilly USA, diabetes chief Enrique Conterno bows out after 27 years

Eli Lilly
(Eli Lilly)

Eli Lilly's top U.S. executive is on the way out. Enrique Conterno, who heads up Lilly's worldwide diabetes business as well as Lilly USA, is retiring after 27 years at the company.

Mike Mason, himself a 30-year Lilly vet, will take the reins from Conterno on Jan. 1, the drugmaker said Wednesday.

Conterno's departure follows years of turmoil in Lilly's diabetes business as pricing pressure and new brand competition challenged its broad portfolio of meds. But amid those challenges, Lilly found a groove with some recent launches. Trulicity, its GLP-1 med has stormed that market, while SGLT2 drug Jardiance, partnered with Boehringer Ingelheim not only delivered blockbuster sales but also broke ground with the diabetes field's first-ever cardiovascular approval.

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Enrique Conterno (Eli Lilly)

Mason happens to have led those two launches, Lilly said. He currently serves as SVP of connected care and insulins.

On a conference call Wednesday, Lilly CEO David Ricks thanked Conterno for his “energy, optimism and thirst for excellence," adding that the company wouldn’t be in its position if not for his work. Conterno said on the call he's "very proud of business that we built" and that he's handing off to Mason. 

Along with industry peers, Lilly has faced a payer squeeze in diabetes that’s hurt revenues and forced it to adapt and cut costs. Revenues for its big-selling insulin Humalog, for instance, slipped 8% in the first 9 months of 2019 compared with the same period last year.  

On the flip side, the company’s type 2 diabetes drug Trulicity, which launched in 2014, is now Lilly's top drug by sales, generating nearly $3 billion so far in 2019. That's a 28% jump from 2018.

RELATED: Lilly Bio-Medicines chief Christi Shaw steps aside, leaving key launches behind 

Conterno is a Peru native who came to the U.S. on a swimming scholarship, according to a profile in the Alumni Society. He joined Lilly in 1992 and throughout his career has worked in sales, finance, marketing, business development and general management roles.  

His departure comes soon after Lilly lost another top exec in Christi Shaw, who left to lead Gilead’s Kite Pharma. Shaw led Lilly’s Bio-Medicines unit, which is launching key new medicines.