After $12 Million in Incentives, Eli Lilly Adding 462 Jobs in North Carolina

Job Creation

Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly is adding 462 new jobs in Durham County, North Carolina over five years. This comes after a deal from local and state governments for $12.4 million in incentives.

The positions will be in manufacturing, assembly and packaging. The NC Department of Commerce approved the incentives this morning. The minimum average wage of the jobs will be $71,756 per year, which is higher than the average $65,152 per annum wage for the county.

The jobs will include manufacturing for two diabetes drugs, Trulicity, an injectable drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2014 and tirzepatide, which is in development.

In June 2019, Lilly presented results of a Phase IIb trial of tirzepatide, showing the drug improved markers of beta cell function and insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetes patients. There were also significant A1C and body weight decreases in Japanese patients with type 2 diabetes after only eight weeks of treatment. There were also improvements in markers of non-alcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH, liver inflammation and cell damage caused by liver fat) in type 2 diabetes patients.

“We are excited about tirzepatide’s potential to make an important impact on people with type 2 diabetes and other conditions, including obesity and NASH,” said Brad Woodward, global development leader, Incretins, Lilly, at the time. “The tirzepatide results seen in early and mid-stage trials pave the way for our extensive Phase III programs, reinforce our commitment to researching it further across different populations and support its potential of addressing an unmet treatment need.”

The state’s Economic Investment Committee approved the incentive package. It includes almost $10 million from the state and $2.5 million from Durham County. The North Carolina recruitment effort was dubbed “Project Blue Jay.” Indiana and Pennsylvania were also trying to win the deal.

Last week, Eli Lilly added another lower-priced version of its insulin products to the market. It is offering cheaper versions of Humalog Mix75/25 KwikPen (insulin lispro protamine and insulin lispro injectable suspension 100 units/mL) and Humalog Junior KwikPen (insulin lispro injection 100 units/mL).

They will both be marked down 50% compared to the branded versions and will be made available by mid-April. These insulin products are identical to the branded versions and may be substituted at the pharmacy. This move came as U.S. politicians continue to criticize the industry over the rising costs of insulin and prescription drug prices. Insulin for diabetic patients has become something of a flashpoint for the drug-pricing debate related to reports of patients rationing their insulin because of the increased costs.

This was Lilly’s second attempt at introducing lower-cost insulins. In May 2019, two months after regulatory approval, the company’s authorized generic formulation of Humalog went on sale at a 50% lower price than its branded form of insulin. However, an August analysis indicated patients weren’t getting the cheaper version, partly because of lack of awareness of the product.

The company also announced plans to spend from $1 billion to $5 billion each quarter this year as it plans to bolster its pipeline.

Lilly recently announced that it was buying California-based Dermira for $1.1 billion in cash. The deal expands Lilly’s immunology pipeline with a late-stage compound for atopic dermatitis.

In a presentation at this week’s JP Morgan Healthcare Conference in San Francisco, Lilly’s chief executive officer David Ricks indicated that most of the deals will be in oncology, but the company is interested in other areas as well.

Smiley said they were looking for late-stage assets, but that most opportunities for shareholders were for drugs in earlier stages of development. They’re also open to various approaches, such as licensing deals or outright acquisitions.

“We are looking at Dermira-like opportunities targeting assets in the $1 billion to $5 billion range,” Smiley said. “We’d like to do something in the range of one per quarter or so.”

The company projected higher-than-expected profits for 2020, noting high demand for its newer drugs like Trulicity for diabetes and Taltz for psoriasis and other autoimmune diseases. However, the diabetes market is notoriously facing pricing pressures in the U.S. as well as high rebates and discounts paid to pharmacy benefit managers.

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