Lilly 4Q profit surges, helped by new COVID-19 treatment

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Eli Lilly’s new COVID-19 treatment helped the drugmaker’s fourth-quarter profit surge even though U.S. regulators approved its use late in the quarter.

The antibody treatment bamlanivimab brought in $850 million in U.S. sales for Lilly after the Food and Drug Administration authorized emergency use in November for patients with mild-to-moderate COVID-19.

The treatment racked up $871.2 million overall, making it Lilly’s second-highest selling product in the final quarter of 2020. It trailed only the popular diabetes drug Trulicity, which totaled $1.5 billion in sales.

Bamlanivimab is a one-time treatment given through an IV and can be used for patients who are 12 and older who don’t require hospitalization. Antibodies are proteins that attach to a virus and block it from infecting cells.

Lilly said the U.S. government has agreed to buy nearly1.5 million doses of bamlanivimab, and 950,000 have already been delivered. The rest will be delivered by the end of March.

Lilly said Friday that its overall revenue jumped 22% in the quarter to $7.44 billion. It climbed 7% not counting bamlanivimab.

Net income rose 42% to $2.12 billion compared to the final quarter of 2019. Adjusted earnings totaled $2.75 per share.

That topped Wall Street expectations. Analysts expected, on average, earnings of $2.37 per share on $7.27 billion in revenue, according to FactSet.

The fourth-quarter sales Lilly booked from bamlanivimab came after the company spent about $450 million researching and developing COVID-19 treatments last year and then a “significant amount” making them, spokesman Mark Taylor said.

Lilly is still studying bamlanivimab. Early research results suggested that it may help clear the coronavirus sooner and possibly cut hospitalizations in people with mild to moderate cases.

The drugmaker said Tuesday that bamlanivimab combined with another antibody also reduced the risk of hospitalizations or death by 70% in newly diagnosed, non-hospitalized COVID-19 patients at high risk of serious illness because of age or other health conditions.

Lilly also said last week that the antibody treatment can prevent COVID-19 illness in residents and staff of nursing homes and other long-term care locations, which have been devastated by the pandemic.

Lilly said it plans to work with regulators to see about expanding the authorization to prevent and treat COVID-19 in those facilities, where vaccinations are already underway.

Experts have said drugs like Lilly’s could serve as a bridge to help manage the virus until vaccines are widely available.

Shares of Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. climbed 2% to $214.76 Friday morning while broader indexes slipped.

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Follow Tom Murphy on Twitter: @thpmurphy

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