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July 5, 2005

Eli Lilly Proposes New Strategy

The pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly has planned a new strategy for the development of future drugs. Many complain that drug companies spend less time searching for new drugs and more time making sure that they are overmarketed and overprescribed. Critics also complain that drug companies try to play-down side effects in order for their drugs to seem more attractive to the consumer.

Recently, the chief executive of Eli Lilly--Sidney Taurel--delivered a speech to shareholders in which he stated "'the right dose of the right drug to the right patient at the right time.'' In other words, Lilly sees its future not in blockbuster medicines like Prozac that are meant for tens of millions of patients, but rather in drugs that are aimed at smaller groups and can be developed more quickly and cheaply, possibly with fewer side effects" (Berenson, 2005).

Of course, this is just a statement that may or may not actually come into effect. Some people state that Eli Lilly has a bad track record of exaggerating the potential that its medications have.

On the upside, since 2001 Eli Lilly has created five truly new drugs. They also spend nearly 20% of their sales on research, whereas the average drug company spends about 16%. The cost of developing new drugs has steadily increased over the years and is still increasing. This means it is only going to become more difficult for drug companies to discover and manufacture new medications.

To change this trend, Eli Lilly plans to, "[focus] its research efforts on finding biomarkers -- genes or other cellular signals that will indicate which patients are most likely to respond to a given drug. Other drug makers are also searching for biomarkers, but Lilly executives are the most vocal in expressing their belief that this area of research will fundamentally change the way drugs are developed" (Berenson, 2005).

We can only judge the truth of Eli Lilly's promises by what they deliver in the future. Hopefully they will hold true to their claims.

The source of this article was The New York Times by Alex Berenson.


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