Lilly to focus on diabetes, cancer in China

Eli Lilly ($LLY)  has a plan to maintain sales growth, and it involves China, a big prize drugmakers having been eyeing over the last several years.

CEO John Lechleiter (photo) wants Lilly to be the fastest-growing pharma company in China. To accomplish this goal, he will concentrate on diabetes and cancer over the next 5 years as the company introduces more than a dozen drugs to the market, according to a Bloomberg report.

The drugmaker has made major strides in China and has doubled its sales force there. Its efforts seem to have paid off: Sales in China grew 25% last year--that's faster than the industry average. And with diabetes rates rising there, Lilly might have an edge with its diabetes portfolio.

Still, pharma companies like Lilly may face some challenges in China soon. As we recently reported, officials are looking to adopt Anhui province's aggressive tendering system, which slashed prices at least 30% on key drugs over the past year.

While Lechleiter understands the government's desire to keep healthcare costs under control, he also believes other factors should be considered, including drug quality and supply reliability.

Intriguingly, diabetes and cancer meds might not be the only drivers for Lilly in China. Bloomberg notes that Lilly's erectile dysfunction med Cialis will soon overtake Pfizer's Viagra in the markets in which they are sold. "In our quest for leadership in some of these China cities, we feel very confident," explained Eric Baclet, president of Lilly China.

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