'It's a horse race between three great companies': Eli Lilly CEO talks winning on migraine treatments

  • Eli Lilly CEO Dave Ricks talks competition in the migraine treatment space and how Eli Lilly plans to win out in an interview with CNBC's Jim Cramer.
  • With Eli Lilly on the heels of rivals Amgen and Teva Pharmaceuticals, "it's a horse race between three great companies," Ricks says.
  • But Eli Lilly has key skills that could "come into play" as the race progresses, the CEO says.

With Amgen, Teva Pharmaceuticals and Eli Lilly all chasing market share with new drugs for treating migraines, the path to success is "a horse race between three great companies," Eli Lilly's CEO, Dave Ricks, told CNBC on Wednesday.

In September, Eli Lilly received approval from the Food and Drug Administration for its migraine treatment, Emgality. While Amgen and Teva's competing treatments had already been approved by then, Ricks told Jim Cramer in an interview that the battle was far from over.

"We're three or four months behind Amgen, one month behind Teva," he said on "Mad Money." "It's a horse race between three great companies, but we have some skills that we think will come into play."

Ricks, whose company's diabetes and psoriasis drugs have enabled it to raise its 2019 outlook, said Eli Lilly's technology and ability to reach customers could be major advantages in treating migraines, which affect roughly 30 million Americans.

"We're good at reaching consumers. We built that capability around Cialis," Eli Lilly's erectile dysfunction drug, Ricks said. "We also think we have the best delivery system. The same device we use with Trulicity, which has really been a winner for us in diabetes, we're using for these migraine patients."

Trulicity, which helps diabetes patients keep their glucose levels under control and lose weight, is delivered through a pen with a push tab that hides the needle.

"This is a primary care condition. You want an easy-to-use device patients can give themselves at home," Ricks told Cramer. "That's what we have."

And, at the end of the day, the CEO sees these new developments on the migraine front as more than just a three-company footrace.

"These three drugs, they work in similar ways. That's true. But we've had decades where there's been nothing new for migraine," he said. "So it's an exciting time for migraine treatment."

Eli Lilly shares gained 2.45 percent in Wednesday trading, settling at $109.11. In early November, Eli Lilly delivered third-quarter sales results above Wall Street estimates on two key drugs, Trulicity and Taltz, which treats psoriasis.

Watch Dave Ricks' full interview here:

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