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Lilly says generic competition hurts fourth-quarter profit, sales

(Reuters) - Eli Lilly and Co said on Tuesday that fourth-quarter profit fell as competition from generic drugs, particularly for its once top-selling schizophrenia drug Zyprexa, drove revenue lower.

The U.S. drugmaker earned $827 million, or 74 cents per share, down from $858 million, or 77 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding special items such as asset impairments and restructuring, Lilly earned 85 cents per share, beating analysts' expectations by 7 cents per share.

The better-than-expected results were due to cost controls as well as strong sales of key drugs, such as lung cancer treatment Alimta and antidepressant Cymbalta, Lilly spokesman Ed Sagabiel said.

Revenue dropped by about 1 percent to $5.96 billion, but were above Wall Street expectations of $5.81 billion.

Zyprexa, now facing generic competition, saw sales slide 49 percent to $385 million from $750 million a year earlier. The company said the sharp drop was partly offset by gains in sales of other drugs and its animal health products.

Lilly forecast earning would increase this year by 13 percent to 17 percent to $3.82 to $3.97 per share, excluding special items, due to cost controls.

Profit will benefit by 7 cents per share due to a research and development tax credit that was delayed until this year due to the late signing of federal legislation.

On January 4 the company forecast earnings of $3.75 to $3.90 per share, but that did not include the tax benefit.

It predicted sales will be flat to a bit higher this year, in a range of $22.6 billion to $23.4 billion, despite expected generic competition in December for its $5-billion-a-year Cymbalta.

Lilly has been battered over the past year by generic forms of Zyprexa. Besides the looming threat from Cymbalta generics, it is girding for copycat forms of its $1 billion-a-year Evista osteoporosis drug that are due to arrive in early 2014.

Cymbalta had sales of $1.42 billion in the fourth quarter, up 20 percent from a year earlier, and a total of $4.99 billion in 2012.

The company hopes to cushion the blow from generics with approvals of some of its 13 experimental drugs now in late-stage trials.

(Reporting by Caroline Humer and Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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