Lilly blames stiff competition for lower US sales of lung cancer drugs
- Increased competition from new immuno-oncology drugs dented U.S. sales of Eli Lilly's lung cancer medicines, dragging on overall volume growth in the second quarter and limiting revenues from the recently launched Cyramza.
- Even as Lilly reported strong year-over-year revenue growth of 9%, the Indianapolis-based drugmaker felt pressure from the market success of immuno-oncology drugs in the U.S.
- Sales of Alimta, a top earner for Lilly, fell by 12% year over year due to lower demand "primarily from competition from immno-oncology agents," Lilly said in a financial presentation Tuesday.
Eli Lilly has three approved drugs for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC): Alimta, once its top-selling drug, and the more recently approved Cyramza and Portrazza. Alimta continues to be a major moneymaker for Lilly, pulling in nearly $2.5 billion last year, while Cyramza and Portrazza both figure to be important new drugs to replace declining revenues elsewhere.
But in its financial presentation and statement on second-quarter earnings Tuesday, Lilly flagged stiffer competition from immuno-oncology agents as a key factor in lower sales of Alimta and Cyramza in the U.S.
Take Alimta: U.S. sales dropped 12% to $291 million in the second quarter. While Alimta revenues have been declining for some time, Lilly hadn't previously attributed the drop in demand to competition from immuno-oncology drugs.
Cyramza, on the other hand, has been gathering steam since winning approvals in the U.S., Japan, and European Union over the past three years. But while overall sales climbed 68% in the second quarter, U.S. sales declined by 4% due to competition from immuno-oncology drugs in the lung cancer space. Cyramza is also approved for gastric cancer and colorectal cancer.
Lilly's third NSCLC drug, Portrazza, launched in the U.S. last December and only brought in $4 million in second-quarter sales.
Immuno-oncology is a broad term and includes monoclonal antibodies such as Roche's Avastin. But Lilly could being feeling the heat from Bristol-Myer Squibb's Opdivo and Merck's Keytruda, two checkpoint inhibitors recently approved for treatment of NSCLC.
The two drugs have quickly racked up sales in the U.S., mostly for treatment of NSCLC and melanoma and threaten to rapidly reshape the lung cancer market. As Opdivo and Keytruda continue to expand their presence, it will be worth watching to see if drugmakers flag the effects of increased competition from those drugs specifically.
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