Lilly stays confident in possible COVID drug after setback

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Eli Lilly continues to back a potential COVID-19 treatment despite research showing that it may not work on hospitalized patients.

The drugmaker said Tuesday it remains confident that its drug may stop COVID from developing in other patients. Researchers are still studying the drug in mild to moderately ill patients, to try to prevent hospitalization and severe illness.

The potential treatment also is being studied as a preventive measure given to residents and employees of long-term care locations.

U.S. government officials said Monday that they put an early end to a study testing the antibody drug in hospitalized patients because it doesn’t seem to be helping them.

Antibodies are proteins the body makes when an infection occurs; they attach to a virus and help it be eliminated.

Lilly Chief Scientific Officer Dr. Daniel Skovronsky told analysts Tuesday morning that while that news was disappointing, they don’t expect it to affect their treatment’s chances of success in the other potential uses.

The company has asked U.S. regulators to allow emergency use for two of its potential COVID-19 treatments. It said a few weeks ago that early results from a study suggested that one of them reduced symptoms, hospitalizations and ER visits for patients with mild or moderate COVID-19.

The drug is similar to one that President Donald Trump received from Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc. when he was treated earlier this month for COVID-19. These medicines supply concentrated versions of specific antibodies to help the immune system clear the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

Lilly shares tumbled Tuesday after the company also laid out disappointing third-quarter results.

The drugmaker said its net income fell 4% to $1.21 billion, partly due to $125 million in research and development costs for developing potential COVID-19 treatments.

Lilly said it will probably spend about $400 million this year on COVID-19 research and development.

In the third quarter, global revenue climbed 5% to $5.74 billion, and adjusted earnings totaled $1.54 per share.

Analysts expected, on average, earnings of $1.71 per share on $5.87 billion in revenue, according to FactSet.

Shares of Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. fell more than 5% to $133.94 Wednesday morning while broader indexes slipped.

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Follow Tom Murphy on Twitter: @thpmurphy

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This story has been corrected to show that Eli Lilly spent $125 million, not $125, on COVID research.

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