Reuters Investigates

Insight and investigations from our expert reporters

Surviving the patent cliff


Ransdell Pierson examines the outlook for drugmaker Eli Lilly today in a special report “Lilly’s survival plan is far from generic.”

The 134-year-old company faces a sharp fall in profits as patents expire in the coming years for some of its key drugs. It’s a common problem in the industry, as this graphic shows.

MILKEN/Eli Lilly CEO John Lechleiter has become the holdout kid. Unlike his chief rivals, he vows the 134-year-old drugmaker will strike no mega-deals as its top medicines face a seeming Apocalypse of patent expirations.  

Grappling with a similar onslaught of generics, Pfizer and Merck last year purchased Wyeth and Schering-Plough, respectively. By doing so, they acquired new products, the promise of huge cost savings from laying off redundant staff, and potential stable earnings. They also bought themselves temporary peace of mind.