Eli Lilly has given an upbeat presentation to investors which suggests better-than-expected earnings growth for 2008 and highlights an “unparalled” late-stage pipeline.

Earnings per share for next year are forecast to be in the range of $3.85-$4.00, an increase of 8%-14% excluding special items on 2007 and the year will see seven products bring in more than $1 billion each in sales. Leading the pack will be the antidepressant Cymbalta (duloxetine), which is expected to overtake the schizophrenia drug Zyprexa (olanzapine) as Lilly’s biggest-seller in the USA in 2008.

With patent expiries looming on Zyprexa, the firm is hoping for major sales increases for the diabetes drug Byetta (exenatide), Cialis (tadalafil) for erectile dysfunction, the osteoporosis treatment Forteo (teriparatide), the osteoporosis and breast cancer drug Evista (raloxifene) and lung cancer treatment Alimta (pemetrexed). These will be supported by an impressive line-up of new drugs.

Steven Paul, executive vice president of science and technology for Lilly, told investors that between 2008 and 2011, the firm hopes to launch up to six molecules and by the end of 2011, “our Phase III pipeline should be re-stocked with at least 10 new promising molecules”. He added that Lilly’s goal is to launch on average two new compounds per year beginning in 2011, increasing to three a year by 2014.

The firm is confident that the next drug to hit the market will be the antithrombotic prasugrel, which Lilly and Daiichi Sankyo hope will challenge Plavix (clopidogrel), Sanofi-Aventis and Bristol-Myers Squibb’s blockbuster. Lilly noted that results from the 15-month, 13.608-patient TRITON TIMI-38 trial showed that prasugrel produced “a highly significant 19% reduction in relative risk” for the endpoint of cardiovascular death, non-fatal heart attack or non-fatal stroke when compared with Plavix but prasugrel-treated patients also experienced a statistically significant increase in non-coronary artery bypass grafting major bleeding compared to clopidogrel-treated patients.

Still Lilly is convinced about the quality of the product and Mr Paul said the submission package for prasugrel is being finanlised and will be submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration by year-end and to European regulators during the first quarter of 2008.