Diabetes and Big Pharma

While I'm in the car--not driving--on my way to the airport to go to the FDA Advisory Committee meeting on drug-coated stents I wanted to pass along some news from the Eli Lilly analyst meeting this morning in New York that I just left.

Lilly is one of the leaders in diabetes care. Today the COO said "it is difficult to overestimate the magnitude of the worldwide diabetes crisis.". He said Lilly plans to become the global leader in diabetes--competitors NovoNordisk and Sanofi-Aventis stand in the way--and to that end Lilly will expand its diabetes product sales force by 40 percent in the first quarter of next year. So, there's a place for at least some of the more than 2,000 soon-to-be laid off Pfizer sales reps to go.

The American Diabetes Association estimates diabetes costs this country more than $130 billion a year. To help address that Lilly and Alkermes are working on an inhalable insulin with a device that fits in the palm of your hand that they say they will file for FDA approval of in 2009. And Lilly and Amylin are working on a once-a-week version of Byetta which is currently a twice-a-day injectable.

Lilly's CEO told me he will not sweeten the companys $32-a-share offer for Cialis partner Icos even though Institutional Shareholder Services--which advises big investors how to vote--says shareholders should vote against it because it's undervalued. He also told me he's not interested in buying Amylin. But he used to say the same thing about Icos.

Next report from Gaithersburg, Maryland at the stent meeting. A vote on recommendations to the FDA could come tomorrow afternoon.

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