Sunday, August 23, 2009

Cymbalta's waning patent and generic rivals soon could threaten Lilly's sales

Eli Lilly has enjoyed a wave of success with antidepressants, but analysts say such expertise must now bring new revenue growth.

Eli Lilly and Co. built a large part of its fortune selling medications for gloom, anxiety and withdrawal.

Now the question is: Can the Indianapolis drug maker keep riding the antidepressant wave? Can it find its next Prozac, its next Cymbalta?

Use of antidepressants in the U.S. doubled from 1996 to 2005, as more people sought out treatment and the stigma of depression has fallen, according to a study published in the August issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry. All told, about 10 percent of Americans, or 27 million people, were prescribed an antidepressant in 2005, up sharply from 13 million people a decade earlier.

"There's a huge increase in the recognition of depression and its symptoms," said Dr. Jim Martinez, an Indianapolis psychiatrist and adviser to Lilly. "And I think we've seen a growing improvement in public attitudes around seeking care for this disease."

But in recent years, the market has faced growing headwinds. Industry sales from antidepressants dipped nearly 14 percent in the past four years, even as the number of prescriptions dispensed for the pills has continued to climb. Medco Health Solutions, a huge pharmacy company that studies drug trends, is forecasting that use of antidepressants is likely to grow slowly over the next three years.


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