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Eli Lilly launches Xigris to combat `blood poisoning'

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(Left to right) Mr Rajiv Gulati, CMD, Eli Lilly & Co India Pvt Ltd, Dr Theresa Wright, Clinical Research Physician, Eli Lilly, USA, and Dr H.L. Kaul, Head of Department, Anaesthesiology, AIIMS, at a press conference in the Capital on Friday.

NEW DELHI, Oct. 18

IT kills on a scale similar to heart attack, lung cancer or breast cancer - but Sepsis or "blood poisoning'' does not have the same recall, even with medical personnel.

Sepsis, an acute organ dysfunction and death resulting from an infection caused by varied factors, causes an estimated 1,400 deaths per day worldwide and pharma-major Eli Lilly today launched its drug, Xigris, to combat the disease.

The India launch follows its launch in Europe on Thursday. But priced at Rs 5 lakh for a dosage to a patient with a body weight of 60 kg, the drug is beyond the reach of the masses.

Mr Rajiv Gulati, Chairman and Managing Director, Eli Lilly & Company (India) Pvt Ltd, told mediapersons that customs tariff on the drug was 57 per cent and the company had written to the Government asking for its abolition. If this happened, the price would come down to about Rs 3 lakh.

Cost was still an inhibiting factor; he pointed out and added that health insurance would have helped patients avail themselves of the drug, touted to be among the biggest discoveries in recent times. However, he pointed out that while Xigris was not a wonder drug, "it provides hope where there is none.''

Sepsis is reported to cause about 70 per cent of the ICU deaths in the US. The biotech drug is a genetically engineered version of the human activated protein C molecule. The Phase III clinical trials for the drug, known as the Prowess study, revealed that Xigris reduced the risk of death from septic infections by 20 per cent.

Dr Theresa Wright, Clinical Research Physician, Eli Lilly-USA, said that there were ongoing studies on paediatric use. On development efforts of different drugs from the Eli Lilly stable, she said that Prozac was comparable to putting together a bicycle, Humulin (insulin) was equivalent to developing a car and Xigris was as complex as a rocket.

Anti-depressant Prozac was a blockbuster drug from Eli Lilly and its sales erosion by generics, on going off patent, had adversely affected the company.

Responding to whether a similar yardstick could be applied to Xigris, in terms of higher sales expected from this drug, Mr Gulati said: "More people use a bicycle than a rocket. Prozac is mass-market, while Xigris looks at niche market. Worldwide the company expects to touch about $400 million to $500 million over two years and Rs 6 crore in India in the first year,'' he said.

Eli Lilly hopes to end December 2002 at Rs 122 crore, as compared to Rs 109 in 2001. It targets Rs 150 crore by end-2003.

`Cialis to hit Indian market in late 2004'

CIALIS, the drug for erectile dysfunction from Eli Lilly, is slated to hit India in late-2004. Mr Gulati said that they would scout for co-marketing partners for this drug in India.

Meanwhile, Eli Lilly has a contract manufacturing arrangement with Shasun for three molecules in anaesthesia, tuberculosis (TB) and peptic ulcer segments. All three products would be exported, though the TB molecule would be consumed in India too. Eli Lilly also has a co-development arrangement with Shasun for chemical research.

Sun Pharma is manufacturing a fourth molecule, in the cardio-vascular segment, for Eli Lilly. The product is currently being imported and in six months, he expected to export the same product manufactured from India.

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