Highlights from the Bloomberg interview with CEO Eli Lilly.

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Dave Ricks, CEO of Eli Lilly, gave an encouraging update on the fight against COVID-19.
The company has been manufacturing the drug since July.
Eli Lilly now knows that its treatment is highly effective in early stage patients.

Dave Ricks, CEO of Eli Lilly And Co. (NYSE: LLY), was interviewed on Tuesday morning on Bloomberg Surveillance to provide additional comments on the company’s earlier earnings report and the outlook for the pharmaceutical giant.

Update on COVID-19 treatment

Eli Lilly has been working on treatments against the COVID-19 virus, which consists of a neutralizing antibody and is intended for symptomatic individuals in an ambulatory setting. According to Ricks’ comments on Bloomberg TV, the company is close to confirming that treatment of the disease with monoclonal antibodies at an early stage of infection can make a “significant difference” in the hospital setting.

On the other hand, the company has only recently discovered that treatment later in the course of the disease is not very effective.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is currently reviewing the data submitted by the Company as part of the emergency marketing authorization application process, the CEO said.

In the meantime, the scientific community will “pretty soon” know which treatments and vaccines from competing pharmaceutical companies will help in the global fight against the disease.

“I am confident because we have so many scores, really an unprecedented number so quickly,” Ricks said. “I believe that science will win in the end,” said Ricks.

Understanding science

Eli Lilly began commercial production of its COVID-19 treatment in July to better address the challenges of mass scaling. One of the biggest challenges for the Company is the limited global infrastructure required for the production of monoclonal antibody therapies.

The Company has succeeded in harvesting five different sites in its own network and in entering into new collaborations, he said. But even these efforts will not be enough to fully address the current global infection rate.

Therefore, the Company believes that high-risk patients, once diagnosed with the virus, should be given top priority for treatment.

Profit Outlook

Given the unprecedented need for therapies to better control the pandemic, pricing and access are two of the more controversial topics of discussion. In theory, a manufacturer could set high costs for his therapy, which would imply lower income, and Third World countries would have little or no access.

Eli Lilly works with governments around the world to negotiate agreements for the distribution of his treatment, as management emphasizes the economic benefits it provides to patients in early stages. Most remarkably, an average hospital stay related to COVID-19 in the U.S. is approximately $22,000 per person, so there is “enough room to share that value, provided the drug is approved”.

The company is demanding a “modest return” on its treatment, but does not want to achieve the same level of profit as other therapies, the CEO said.

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