Under pressure, pharma collects new indications

If the pharma industry were in need of a poster child for indication-happy drug marketing, Cymbalta could be it. The Eli Lilly med is now "the Swiss army knife of drugs," the Indianapolis Star says. It has a half-dozen approved uses: depression, anxiety, maintenance treatment for depression, diabetic nerve pain, fibromyalgia, and in Europe, stress urinary incontinence.

There's reason behind this strategy. It works. On the market for just four years, Cymbalta racks up billions in sales for Lilly; in fact, it's Lilly's second-biggest seller. Given the fact that Lilly hasn't launched a new drug for humans in three years, growing existing meds has been crucial.

Lilly, of course, is far from alone. Dispirited by their limping pipelines and increasingly rigorous regulators, drug companies across the board have been looking for new uses for their already-approved drugs. Think Pfizer's Lyrica, for instance; it's approved for three different nervous system complaints, and the company plans to seek the OK for epilepsy treatment.

Understandably. But is this search for new indications eroding new-compound R&D? Some experts think so. Others say drugmakers would be remiss if they didn't look for new uses for old meds. One thing is certain: It's not about to stop anytime soon.

- read the story in the Indy Star