Eli Lilly said it delivered a promising update to Wall Street yesterday, but its guidance of a 5% earnings rise in 2007 left many analysts decidedly non-plussed.

At its annual meeting with the investment community in New York, the company estimated earnings of $3.25-$3.35 per share for next year, some way below analyst predictions. However, Lilly argues that analysts' estimates do not take into account the $0.10 dilutive effect of its planned $2.1 billion acquisition of ICOS.

Next year, sales growth is predicted to be in the high-single to low-double digit range, helped hugely by all the revenues from the erectile dysfunction drug Cialis (tadalafil) once the ICOS deal goes through.

Other top-sellers should be the antidepressant Cymbalta (duloxetine), the diabetes drug Byetta (exenatide), cancer treatment Alimta (pemextred) and Forteo (teriparatide) for osteporosis, while sales of the company’s biggest product, the antipsychotic Zyprexa (olanzapine), are expected to remain stable.

In terms of pipeline, Steven Paul, Lilly’s executive vice president for science and technology, noted that the company is developing 30 new drugs, of which 19 are in Phase II or later, and he emphasised the importance of biotechnology to the firm’s future: “Bioproducts comprise fully one-third of our pipeline [and] our goal is to launch at least one biotech molecule per year starting in 2011.”

High hopes for prasugrel

In terms of late-stage pipeline, pride of place in the presentation went to the antithrombotic prasugrel, co-developed with Daiichi Sankyo, for which a New Drug Application is expected to be submitted by the end of 2007, a little later than some analysts had expected.

Other highlights were enzastaurin for glioblastoma (brain cancer), with submission anticipated in 2008, and Lilly noted that a Phase III trial is under way for the use of enzastaurin in the treatment of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma (submission in 2010). Arzoxifene for the prevention of osteoporosis is expected to be submitted to the US Food and Drug Administration in 2009.

Lilly also said that it is seeking approval for Evista (raloxifene), its osteoporosis treatment, to be used for the prevention of breast cancer for certain postmenopausal women. An NDA was submitted by the company which includes data from four clinical trials.