Eli Lilly & Co. said its experimental Alzheimer’s treatment slowed the decline of cognition in some patients while failing to meet the primary goals of two large studies.
Lilly’s drug, solanezumab, slowed the worsening of mental loss in mild to moderate patients, the Indianapolis-based company said today in a statement. The finding, in a patient sub-group, wasn’t expected by analysts, who had given the drug a less than 20 percent chance of showing a benefit.
A similar-acting medicine from Pfizer Inc. and Johnson & Johnson failed to show a benefit earlier this month. If approved for a wide group of Alzheimer’s sufferers, the treatment may “transform” Lilly, bringing in $5 billion to $10 billion a year, said Goldman Sachs analyst Jami Rubin in a note last month. That would be much needed revenue for Lilly as it braces to lose $7 billion from generic competition over five years.
“We are encouraged by the pooled data that appear to show a slowing of cognitive decline,” said John Lechleiter, Lilly’s chief executive officer, in the statement. “We intend to discuss these data with regulatory authorities to gain their insights on potential next steps.” Current Treatments
Despite billions of dollars spent and years of research, the only drugs on the market treat the symptoms of the disease rather than the underlying cause and none slow its progression. There are 5.4 million Americans with Alzheimer’s and that number is expected to surge as the population ages.
Lilly shares rose 1.9 percent to $43.20 at 7:28 a.m.
The only other therapy in late-stage testing is Baxter International Inc.’s Gammagard. The product is an expensive, relatively scarce treatment derived from donated blood plasma that replaces antibodies in people whose immune systems can’t protect them from infection. Results from a final-stage study on whether it could slow or stop Alzheimer’s may be available next year.
Lilly lost patent protection last year on its top-seller Zyprexa for schizophrenia and will lose the patent next year for its second-best seller, the anti-depressant Cymbalta. The drugs combined for 36 percent of Lilly’s 2011 revenue.
Lechleiter has said the company’s annual revenue will not be less than $20 billion and profit will remain more than $3 billion through 2014. In 2011, Lilly brought in revenue of $24.3 billion with a profit of $4.35 billion.
Lilly has 11 other medicines in late-stage testing, six of which may generate more than $1 billion each in peak annual sales, said Jeffrey Holford, an analyst with Jefferies Group Inc. in New York. Sales from those drugs won’t come soon enough to overcome the losses Lilly faces through at least 2017, he said.
Copyright 2012 Bloomberg News