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Eli Lilly's Economic Measuring Stick

The folks at Eli Lilly probably cringe every time I go here, but the company this morning reported that third quarter U.S. sales of the erectile dysfunction drug Cialis sprung 13 percent to nearly $159 million.

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In the earnings press release LLYsays Cialis sales were "driven by higher demand and, to a lesser extent, increased net effective selling prices." Net effective selling prices? Who says that? Speak plain English, please. "We jacked up the price because we know we've got a red hot drug people want." How's that? Okay, maybe it's a bit over the line, but you get my point.

On "Squawk Box" this morning, my colleague Carl Quintanilla suggested Cialis' success may be a function of the recession. People are staying at home more and you know what. The per pill cost of Cialis ain't cheap but, I guess, it's slightly less expensive than the cost of two people going out for dinner and a movie. Recently Lilly's been running full-page newspaper ads with giant coupons for Cialis.

But it also looks like Cialis is continuing to take share from Pfizer's Viagra. PFE reported yesterday that Q3 revenue in the U.S. for the ED original fell one percent to $232 million. So, it's still the impotence fighting drug of choice in America, but Cialis keeps gaining on it. GlaxoSmithKline, Schering-Plough (soon to be Merck) and Bayer share Levitra, which isn't much of a threat.

Symbol
Price
 
Change
%Change
LLY
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MRK
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PFE
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Worldwide, PFE's Q3 Viagra sales clocked in at $466 million, down eight percent. While LLY's global Cialis revenue jumped five percent to nearly $400 million.

Pfizer's tagline for awhile was "Viva Viagra." Because it lasts 36 hours, the French have nicknamed Cialis "Le Weekend." So, maybe Lilly should try "Cialis: C'est si bon."

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