Lilly heralds PhII success for mega-blockbuster cholesterol drug contender

You can now add Eli Lilly ($LLY) to the roster of Big Pharma companies taking a late-stage shot at the mega-blockbuster market that awaits any new CETP drug approved to boost good cholesterol while hatcheting down levels of the bad stuff. Reporting at the big AHA meet-up, investigators reported that evacetrapib bumped levels of HDL by 129% at the highest dose, while bad cholesterol dwindled as much as 36%.

"We got everything we could hope for from this drug, and maybe more," senior author Steve Nissen tells Bloomberg. "We are going to move evacetrapib forward as rapidly as possible" into Phase III. And a success in late-stage testing, he adds, could open the way to a new drug that could perform as well as statins in the marketplace.

Lilly is following behind Merck ($MRK) and Roche, each of which has their own new cholesterol drug in huge late-stage studies. Pfizer ($PFE) had been leading all contenders when its billion-dollar effort to advance torcetrapib ended in a colossal disaster, threatening all the programs in the field. Merck's anacetrapib and Roche's dalcetrapib have peak sales projections that break the $10 billion barrier, making this the single most lucrative development arena in biopharma.

Lilly cardio research chief David Moller, though, insists that the race is still wide open as Lilly prepares to leap ahead into its own late-stage program. "At this stage," he tells Reuters, "it's not clear who is going to be first in class or who is going to be best in class."

- read the Bloomberg report
- get the Reuters story