Slipping COVID-19 treatment demand hits Eli Lilly forecast

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Eli Lilly fell well short of Wall Street’s first-quarter expectations, and the drugmaker chopped the top end of its earnings forecast due to lower demand for COVID-19 treatments.

Shares of the Indianapolis company started sliding early Tuesday morning.

Lilly said it now expects 2021 adjusted earnings to range from $7.80 to $8 per share after predicting in late January a range of $7.75 to $8.40.

Analysts forecast, on average, earnings of $8.24 per share, according to FactSet.

Lilly pulled in $810 million in the quarter from sales of COVID-19 treatments and expects to bring in as much as $1.5 billion from the drugs this year. But the company also said it changed its adjusted earnings outlook mainly due to lower expected demand for the treatments and higher research and development costs.

COVID-19 vaccines are being widely delivered across the United States, and the changing virus has limited the effectiveness of Lilly’s bamlanivimab, a one-time treatment delivered through an IV.

Lilly said earlier this month bamlanivimab should no longer be given to patients alone because treatment combinations work better fighting some virus variants.

It now recommends that care providers use bamlanivimab along with another one of its drugs, etesevimab.

The decreased demand for COVID-19 treatments was expected, according to Dr. Vamil Divan, who follows Lilly for Mizuho Securities USA. But sluggish sales for other drugs like the psoriasis treatment Taltz surprised the analyst.

“Lilly also benefited from higher non-operating income and a lower tax rate, or the quarter would have been even worse,” Divan wrote in a research note.

Overall, Lilly’s net income fell 7% in the quarter to $1.35 billion, with adjusted earnings totaling $1.87 per share. Revenue grew 16% to $6.81 billion.

Analysts expected, on average, earnings of $2.12 per share on $6.93 billion in revenue.

Shares of Lilly were down more than 3% to $180.71 in premarket trading Tuesday.

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Follow Tom Murphy on Twitter: @thpmurphy

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