Weight Loss Drugs Propel Eli Lilly to Largely Better-Than-Expected Forecast for 2024

The drugmaker also is awaiting an FDA decision this year on its potential Alzheimer's treatment.

AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File

The popular diabetes treatment Mounjaro pushed Eli Lilly past fourth-quarter forecasts, and the drugmaker predicted that 2024 will turn out largely better than expected too as new products build momentum.

Lilly said on Tuesday that company revenue could climb as much as 22% and surpass $41 billion this year. Analysts expect sales to continue to build for Mounjaro and the company's weight-loss drug Zepbound, which regulators approved in November.

Zepound, a new version of Mounjaro, registered about $176 million in sales during the final weeks of the fourth quarter after it became the latest drug approved for a hot area of medicine, weight management.

The data firm FactSet says analysts expect around $1.9 billion in sales from Zepbound this year. They see sales climbing to $12 billion in a few years.

Mounjaro sales climbed 65% to $2.21 billion in the fourth quarter compared with the same period last year. But the drugmaker also said high demand has made it difficult to fill orders for Mounjaro and led to delays. Lilly expects that problem to continue.

The drugmaker also is awaiting a Food and Drug Administration decision this year on its potential Alzheimer's treatment, donanemab. Research has shown that the drug can modestly slow mental decline in patients with the fatal, mind-robbing disease. That hasn't been possible until treatments like Leqembi from the Japanese drugmaker Eisai entered the market the past few years.

Regulatory approval for donanemab would give Lilly additional sales momentum, although the rollout for that drug is expected to happen slowly.

Lilly expects 2024 adjusted earnings to range from $12.20 to $12.70 per share.

Analysts expect earnings of $12.39 per share, according to FactSet.

In the final quarter of 2023, Lilly booked a $2.19 billion profit. Earnings adjusted for one-time items came to $2.49 per share.

Revenue grew 28% to $9.35 billion.

Analysts expect adjusted earnings of $2.30 per share on $8.95 billion in revenue.

Sales of the company's top seller, the diabetes treatment Trulicity, slipped 14% in the quarter as Lilly dealt with supply problems and delays in filling orders for that drug too. The company expects that to continue.

Even so, Trulicity still registered more than $7 billion in sales last year, one of six Lilly products to ring up more than $1 billion in sales in 2023.

Lilly shares rose nearly 4% to $733.08 Tuesday morning while the Standard & Poor's 500 index inched up slightly.

The stock price topped $700 for the first time on Monday, and has already set several new all-time high marks just this year. The share price for Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. has climbed over 400% since the start of the decade.

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