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Eli Lilly CEO: Obamacare out-of-pocket costs high

Responding to a call from prominent oncologists to slow the rise in cancer drug prices, Eli Lilly Chairman and CEO John Lechleiter said Thursday that all aspects of care need to be addressed, including the high costs of Obamacare for many Americans.

"We're ... very concerned that patients who need these medicines be able to gain access to these medicines and afford this medicines," he told CNBC's "Squawk Box," but added: "Medicines are a small fraction of what the total cost of cancer care comprises."

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The journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings, where more than 100 cancer doctors made their drug cost plea on Thursday, cited research that showed an escalation in cancer medicine prices by an average of $8,500 a year over the past 15 years.

"In cancer in particular, we're making great strides with some of the new medicines that have been introduced lately," said Lechleiter. "[But] there's a lot of risk to bring these medicines through the pipeline," because many of them fail to work.

Looking at drug costs overall, the Lilly chief said, "We need an insurance system that provides adequate coverage for all the elements of care, including medicines that patients need."

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"Some of the insurance policies we've seen offered through these [Obamacare] exchanges, the premiums are low but the co-pay or co-insurance or the deductible associated with gaining access to medicine is too high for many people," he said.

Lechleiter appeared on CNBC following the release of Lilly's earnings report. It said adjusted earnings were 90 cents a share, which handily beat estimates by 16 cents.

Revenue also came in above forecasts, despite being "hit by 8 percentage points, a downdraft, from the strengthening dollar," he said.

Lilly raised its full-year forecast, even with the expiration of some key patents, citing new drug approvals and significant pipeline progress.

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