April 27, 2009 / 6:35 PM / 10 years ago

Eli Lilly CEO has no plans to buy Amylin

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Eli Lilly and Co (LLY.N) is content with its diabetes drug partnership with Amylin Pharmaceuticals Inc AMLN.O and has no plans to acquire the biotech company, Lilly’s chief executive said on Monday.

Chairman, President and CEO of Eli Lilly and Company John Lechleiter participates in a panel discussion on "the Future of Health" at the 2009 Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California April 27, 2009. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

“We like the relationship just the way it is now,” Lilly CEO John Lechleiter told Reuters in an interview.

The companies jointly market diabetes drug Byetta and are expected to file by mid-year for regulatory approval of a weekly formulation of the injected medicine.

Amylin has been the subject of proxy battles aimed at shaking up the company’s board. Activist investor Carl Icahn last week said he was in favor of selling the San Diego company, but only at a price of at least $30 per share.

Amylin shares were down 2 percent at $11.02 in late afternoon trade on the Nasdaq.

Lechleiter said Byetta sales, which lost market share after reports last summer that the drug may increase the risk of potentially deadly inflammation of the pancreas, have begun to stabilize, “hopefully in a prelude to further growth.”

The CEO said Lilly also has high hopes for sales of anti-clotting drug prasugrel, which is awaiting approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

“We expect it to be a very significant product,” he said, noting that the company expects the bleeding risk associated with some patients to be managed through labeling.

Indianapolis-based Lilly will see several of its top-selling drugs go off-patent over the next few years, including Gemzar for cancer, osteoporosis drug Evista and Cymbalta for depression.

Lechleiter said the company will rely first on its own pipeline to fill the coming void: first prasugrel, followed by a second-generation version of Evista to be filed by year-end, as well as once-weekly Byetta and several anti-cancer compounds and experimental alzheimer’s drugs.

“I’m pleased we have a greater presence in oncology,” through Lilly’s acquisition of ImClone Systems, the CEO said.

He said Lilly will continue to use its cash, when appropriate, to diversify its pipeline and products, but said the company is not interested in combining with another large pharmaceutical company.

“It’s not an appropriate path for Lilly ... the key is innovation,” Lechleiter said.

He said the company is expanding its operations in developing countries like China and Russia and is continually looking at licensing deals.

Other outside deals might include companies exploring “the intersection of drugs, diagnostics and delivery technology,” the CEO said.

“It’s not the worst time to be looking. One-third of publicly-traded biotechs have less than six months of cash remaining,” Lechleiter said.

Reporting by Deena Beasley, editing by Leslie Gevirtz, Bernard Orr

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