Drugmaker Eli Lilly and Co. said Thursday it turned a fourth-quarter profit on higher-than-expected revenue, but a key new drug saw a sharp sales drop after debuting last summer.
The Indianapolis pharmaceutical company reported double-digit sales growth for several established products, including its top-seller, the antipsychotic Zyprexa, which saw sales rise 19 percent to $1.36 billion in the final quarter of 2009 compared to the prior year.
However, sales of Lilly's widely anticipated blood thinner Effient slid to $3.8 million worldwide in the fourth quarter. Effient rang up $22.6 million in third-quarter worldwide sales after debuting in August.
Lilly faces a wave of patent expirations in the next few years that will expose its best-selling drugs to generic competition, and analysts have been looking for reassurances that the company can replace that revenue. Some have predicted Effient eventually will reach $1 billion in sales.
"For all the attention this product has received over the past few years, the first six months of sales are very underwhelming," Bernstein analyst Dr. Tim Anderson said in a Thursday morning research note.
Lilly developed Effient with Japanese drugmaker Daiichi Sankyo Co., and the companies are sharing revenue. Lilly said in a statement the drug is still in the early phases of its launch in the U.S. and Europe, and the two companies are making "good progress in gaining reimbursement and access for the product."
Lilly earned $915.4 million, or 83 cents per share, in the three months that ended Dec. 31. That compares to a loss of $3.63 billion, or $3.31 per share, in the same period a year earlier, when Lilly took a large charge for the buyout of cancer drug maker ImClone Systems Inc.
Revenue increased 14 percent to $5.93 billion, due mostly to higher volume. Lilly's cost of sales rose 57 percent to $1.4 billion from $909 million due to foreign exchange rates.
A Lilly spokesman said the dollar weakened in the fourth quarter compared to the final quarter of 2008, and that leads to a higher cost of sales.
Excluding charges, Lilly earned 91 cents per share in the fourth quarter.
Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters forecast earnings per share of 92 cents for the quarter on $5.67 billion in revenue. Analysts typically exclude one-time charges from their forecasts.
Sales of Lilly's second-best seller, the antidepressant Cymbalta, rose 15 percent to $830.8 million. Cancer treatment Alimta saw sales climb 64 percent to about $524 million in the quarter.
In 2009, eight Lilly drugs rang up more than $1 billion in sales, led by Zyprexa's $4.9 billion total.
For the full year, Lilly earned $4.33 billion, or $3.94 per share, compared with a loss of $2.07 billion, or $1.89 per share, in 2008. Revenue rose 7 percent to $21.84 billion from $20.37 billion.
Looking ahead the company expects a profit $4.65 and $4.85 per share in 2010, while analysts expects profit of about $4.73 per share.
Lilly will lose patent protection for Zyprexa next year. In 2013 and 2014, Lilly will lose protection for four drugs that each generate more than $1 billion in annual sales, including Cymbalta and the diabetes treatment Humalog, its third-best seller.
AP Business Writer Damian Troise contributed to this story from New York.