Eli Lilly has posted a strong set of figures for the third quarter, with the antidepressant/fibromyalgia blockbuster Cymbalta and the lung cancer drug Alimta once again driving sales.

Net income reached $1.30 billion, up 38% and ahead of analyst forecasts, while sales reached $5.65 billion, a rise of 2%. Lilly noted that revenues were reduced by $25 million due to the impact of US health care reform and hit by foreign exchange rates.

The most striking performances came from Cymbalta (duloxetine), up 4% to $825.3 million and the lung cancer drug Alimta (pemetrexed) which leapt 21% to $560.3 million. Lilly’s best-selling drug continues to be the antipsychotic Zyprexa (olanzapine), which had turnover of $1.21 billion, a dip of 1% but up 6% to $604.6 million in the USA, a rise driven by higher prices.

Of Lilly’s other products, the insulin products Humalog and Humulin slipped 1% and increased 7% respectively, to $494.0 million and $278.0 million. The chemotherapy Gemzar (gemcitabine) was down 2% to $324.6 million, due to generic competition and sales of the erectile dysfunction drug Cialis (tadalafil) were up 2% at $406.5 million. The osteoporosis drug Evista (raloxifene), which is also approved for the prevention of breast cancer for certain postmenopausal women, had revenues of $256.8 million, down 1%, while sales of Lilly’s other osteoporosis drug Forteo (teriparatide) decreased 6% to $199.7 million.

The type 2 diabetes treatment Byetta (exenatide), which is sold in partnership with Amylin, had worldwide sales of $168.8 million, down 18% as a result of “competitive pressures in the US and German markets", and $102.7 million (-11%) of that was booked by Lilly. Erbitux (cetuximab), the cancer agent that the company got hold of through its acquisition of ImClone, brought in $95.4 million, down 6%, while sales of the bloodthinner Effient (prasugrel) which is partnered with Daiichi Sankyo, had revenues of $36.3 million, up from $22.9 million in the second quarter.

It has been a pretty tough week for Lilly, after the US Food and Drug Administration said Bydureon (extended-release exenatide) a long-acting version of the diabetes drug Byetta being developed with Amylin and Alkermes, is not approvable at the moment. Then a Phase III trial of the company and MacroGenics' type 1 diabetes drug teplizumab failed.

John Lechleiter, Lilly's chief executive, acknowledged that "we are disappointed by recent pipeline setbacks", but "we remain committed to our strategy of accelerating the flow of innovative new medicines that provide improved outcomes for individual patients". He added that "we believe this strategy, while not without risk, will provide the greatest value".

Dr Lechleiter said he was pleased with "international revenue growth and the impact of ongoing cost containment initiatives," adding that Japan performed particularly well in the quarter, growing revenue by 27%. He added that Lilly performed well in key emerging markets, including China.

Based upon "our strong worldwide year-to-date results and lower estimates of the impact of US healthcare reform", the CEO noted that the company has again upped its earnings guidance for the full-year to $4.65-$4.75 per share, from an earlier forecast of $4.50-$4.65.

Analysts were not overwhelmed by the results and while Tim Anderson at Sanford Bernstein issued a research note saying it was "a reasonable quarter", he claimed that  "for many investors, it is the longer-term financial outlook that matters more and here, Lilly still looks challenged".