Eli Lilly has hiked its profit forecasts for 2006 on the back of improving sales of some key new products and a slowdown in sales erosion for big-selling schizophrenia drug Zyprexa (olanzapine).

At the heart of the uptick is the improving performance of Lilly’s antidepressant Cymbalta (duloxetine), which is seeing sales pick up after a somewhat slow start, not helped by a sluggish market for antidepressants in the USA. Lilly has just announced that it has filed for approval to extend the indications for Cymbalta to include generalized anxiety disorder.

Meanwhile, the decline in sales of Zyprexa – which has driven growth at Lilly over the last few years and accounted for nearly a third of third-quarter revenues – seems to have tailed off after a dramatic dip following the start of generic competition in the USA. Lilly now says its goals are ‘to further stabilise US Zyprexa sales and sustain modest growth on a global basis’.

Lilly’s chief executive Sidney Taurel said he now expects earnings per share next year to come in at nearly double the industry average for large-cap drugmakers, in the region of $3.10 to $3.20. Sales next year are expected to increase 7%-9% to more than $15 billion.

Taurel also pointed to the fact that Lilly has no other major drugs due to lose patent protection for the remainder of the decade, while nine new product launches since 2001 will produce 18% of 2005 revenue and about 24% in 2006.

The company also said it expects to submit five new products for approval in the next four years, as well as seeking new indications for existing products. The lead projects are:

  • prasugrel for acute coronary syndromes, due to be filed in the second half of 2007;
  • arzoxifene for the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis, with submission anticipated in 2009.
  • inhaled insulin, which started a pivotal trial programme earlier this year and is partnered with Alkermes;
  • cancer drug enzastaurin, due to be filed for lead indication glioblastoma in 2008; and
  • Arxxant (ruboxistaurin) for diabetic retinopathy, due to be filed in the USA by the end of February 2006, with European submission expected in the middle of that year.

Finally, Lilly said it was implementing a series of productivity-boosting measures, including efforts aimed at reducing the cost of developing a new medicine by one-third by the end of the decade from about $1.2 billion per new molecular entity (NME) to $800 million.