Positive Data on Lilly Psoriasis Drug

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The New England Journal of Medicine recently published new phase II data on Eli Lilly and Company’s (LLY) psoriasis candidate, ixekizumab (formerly known as LY2439821).

Results from the study, conducted with 142 patients suffering from moderate-to-severe plaque psoriasis, showed that ixekizumab achieved its primary endpoint. Data showed that a significantly higher number of patients in the ixekizumab arm achieved an improvement of at least 75% in Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (:PASI) scores from baseline compared to placebo.

At week 12, 82%, 83% and 75% of patients dosed with ixekizumab 150 mg, 75 mg and 25 mg, respectively achieved a PASI 75 response compared to 8% of patients on placebo.

The frequency of adverse events was similar in the ixekizumab and placebo arms, with no serious adverse events being reported.

Ixekizumab, an anti-IL-17 monoclonal antibody, is currently in phase III studies for the psoriasis indication and has the potential to be evaluated for additional indications like psoriatic arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis and ankylosing spondylitis.

We note that other companies like Amgen (AMGN) and Idera Pharmaceuticals (IDRA) are working on developing treatments for psoriasis.

Neutral on Eli Lilly

We currently have a Neutral recommendation on Eli Lilly, which carries a Zacks #3 Rank (short-term Hold rating). The company has entered a challenging period with the loss of Zyprexa exclusivity in late 2011. With Teva (TEVA) and Dr. Reddy’s (RDY) launching their generic version of Zyprexa, we expect rapid erosion in Zyprexa sales, which came in at $4.62 billion in 2011.

We expect Eli Lilly’s top-and-bottom-line to remain under pressure as the contraction in Zyprexa sales more than offsets growth in Cymbalta, diabetes and new product sales. The generic threat will continue to pose challenges for Eli Lilly with Cymbalta slated to lose patent protection in 2013 and Evista in 2014.

On the flip side, the Animal Health business, Japan and emerging markets should provide some downside support. We are also pleased to see Eli Lilly pursuing small acquisitions and in-licensing deals to boost its pipeline.

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