US drugmaker Eli Lilly pleased investors by beating general expectations for its fourth-quarter 2005 performance. The group swung into the black for the period, posting income of $701 million, or $0.64 a share, compared to a loss of $2.4 million for the same quarter of 2004, which absorbed substantial restructuring and earnings repatriation charges.

For the full year, the group booked earnings of $1.98 billion, or $1.81 per share, compared to $1.81 billion, or $1.66 a share, for 2004, on sales growth of 5.7% to $14.65 billion.

Growth during the fourth quarter was driven by a 6% rise in global sales to $3.88 billion, led, in turn, by strong performances by the anticancer therapies Alimta (pemetrexed), turnover of which rocketed 86% to $135.8 million, and Gemzar (gemcitabine), up 7% to $352.6 million. Sales of osteoporosis treatment Evista (raloxifene) climbed 3% to $265.3 million.

All in all, Lilly’s newer offerings, which include: Alimta, Byetta for type 2 diabetes; the erectile dysfunction drug Cialis (tadalafil); the antidepressant Cymbalta (duloxetine); Forteo (teriparatide) for bone health; Strattera (atomoxetine) for anti-deficit hyperactivity disorder; Symbyax (fluoxetine plus olanzapine) for bipolar disorder; the sepsis treatment Xigris (drotrecogin alfa activated); and stress urinary incontinence drug Yentreve (duloxetine), contributed $791.2 million to fourth-quarter sales and made up 20% of total revenues versus 14% for the like, year-earlier period.

Cialis, which is marketed by joint venture firm Lilly ICOS LLC, turned in a fantastic performance for the quarter, with turnover leaping 38% to $210.5 million. Worldwide Cialis sales consist of revenues of $45.0 million from Lilly territories and $165.5 million in the joint-venture regions.

But things looked a little bleaker for Lilly’s key drug, Zyprexa (olanzapine) for schizophrenia, as sales dipped 5% to $1.03 billion. This was due to rival drugs, being not as closely associated as Zyprexa with weight gain and subsequent diabetes, chomped into its market share. And turnover of Strattera dropped 8% to $228.8 million.

But Sidney Taurel, Lilly’s chairman and chief executive, remained upbeat about the group’s near-term outlook: “Looking forward to 2006, our newer products should grow to about 24% of revenues and earnings per share should grow 8%-11%, representing top-tier growth for large-cap pharmaceutical companies. We also expect to advance our robust pipeline, with three notable submissions anticipated during 2006: Arxxant for diabetic retinopathy, Cymbalta for generalized anxiety disorder, and Evista for breast cancer risk reduction in postmenopausal women.”