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Drug Majors Talk To Wall Street

Three firms weigh pipelines, patents, and research in forecasts for growth

by Rick Mullin
December 19, 2005 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 83, ISSUE 51

Eli Lilly, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and Merck met with analysts in New York City in recent days, collectively providing an optimistic snapshot of the beleaguered industry's standing going into 2006.

The rosiest picture was painted by Lilly CEO Sidney Taurel. "Given our products, pipelines, and the fact that we expect no major patent expirations for the rest of this decade, Lilly is uniquely positioned to deliver sustained earnings growth," Taurel said.

The company, which anticipates earnings-per-share growth of more than 8% next year, nearly tripled its new product portfolio since 2001, launching nine new products.

Lilly also reported on cost-control measures, such as a Six Sigma quality regimen, that resulted in a 15% productivity increase this year. Taurel stated a goal of reducing the cost of developing a new medicine from $1.2 billion today to $800 million by the end of the decade.

Credit: Bristol-Myers Squibb Photo
Credit: Bristol-Myers Squibb Photo

Despite a healthy pipeline at Bristol-Myers Squibb, growth will be deferred until 2007, according to CEO Peter R. Dolan. The company will lose patent protection on the cholesterol drug Pravachol, its second biggest moneymaker, next year. It is also dealing with delays for Pargluva, a type 2 diabetes treatment being developed with Merck.

Merck, which announced the elimination of 7,000 jobs late last month and faces patent loss on the cholesterol modifier Zocor, its top-selling drug, is now targeting nearly $5 billion in total savings through 2010. This is up from the $3.5 billion to $4.0 billion announced along with the job cuts.

CEO Richard T. Clark told analysts that the company will focus R&D on nine priority disease areas including Alzheimer's, vaccines, and obesity, but that it will continue to make "focused investments" in areas such as antivirals.

Promising that Merck "will remain a research-driven pharmaceutical company," Clark said the firm is on course for double-digit annual sales growth over the next three to five years.



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