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Lilly Mans Up Its Pipeline

Axiron
Source: acrux.com
Axiron

I can hear the commercial now. “Underarm protection that literally makes you feel more like a man.”

The company that brought you the impotence drug Cialis is trying to strengthen its limp drug development pipelineby doing a deal down under.

Lilly could spend more than $335 million on the partnership with Aussie company, Acrux, on a deodorant-like product to treat low testosterone.

So, if the FDA approves it, you could put it on in the locker room with no one knowing it isn’t anti-perspirant/deodorant (unless, of course, they use it, too.)

But, here’s the rub.

The stuff is called “Axiron.” It’s just a hunch on my part, but I think Unilever , which owns the popular male-scent product line Axe, is gonna have a problem with the Axiron name. They’d both be making underarm products, one called Axe, the other Axiron. I’m betting Unilever , whose U.S. headquarters are right nextdoor to CNBC’s global HQ in Englewood Cliffs, NJ, will have an 'axe' to grind about that.

I didn’t know this until I read the LLY press release on my BlackBerry last night, but hypogonadism or low testosterone is estimated to affect up to 39 percent of men over 45. But most of those guys don’t know that’s why their sex drive or libido might be low. The companies say only around 10 percent of the men with the problem get treated for it. Lilly and Acrux cite data from IMS Health, which monitors drug markets, that show testosterone-boosting products have grown into a blockbuster category, with sales of more than a billion bucks a year. U.S. sales of gels account for $700 million of that.

Last September, Acrux said a late-stage study of Axiron showed 84 percent of test subjects had their testosterone levels back within a normal range after four months on the drug. Based on those results, the company filed for FDA approval in January.

Acrux and Lilly are now waiting for the FDA to make a decision. I, for one, can’t wait. Not for the product, mind you, but to cover it.

Questions? Comments? Pharma@cnbc.com and follow me on Twitter at mhuckman