Lilly seeks shop for $50 million drug debut

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Pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly & Co. and joint-venture partner Boehringer-Ingelheim are readying for a 2004 launch of a stress urinary-incontinence product for women and are talking to agencies to handle an account worth at least $50 million globally.

The new drug, with the working name of Yentreve, is at a final stage of development but has yet to gain approval from the Food and Drug Administration.

Executives close to the talks said the two companies are planning a global launch of the product in 2004. The pharmaceutical giants are in talks with at least two U.S. agencies about creating the launch campaign for the drug: Omnicom Group's BBDO Worldwide and WPP Group's J. Walter Thompson, both New York. Neither agency would comment on their involvement, though other unnamed agencies are known to have been eliminated from the process.

An Eli Lilly spokeswoman declined to comment. Germany-based Boehringer-Ingelheim could not be reached.

The potential new incontinence treatment stems from a separate Lilly drug product called duloxetine, which is the basis of its anti-depressant drug Cymbalta, scheduled for launch later this year. Lilly researchers found that duloxetine, in doses of 80 milligrams, reduced the frequency of incontinence caused by increased pressure on the abdomen. This is brought on by such normal everyday activities as coughing, sneezing, laughing or exercise. Lilly said the condition affects 25% of American women.

Sanitary-napkin manufacturers have also started advertising their products as a solution to the problem. BBDO handled Tambrands' accounts in the early '90s, and so has some experience with the category. BBDO started its own health-care unit in March, BBDO Health Work, out of its New York office, and named Anne Devereux as president of the division.

This is one of the first major drug reviews that BBDO has participated in since the opening of the unit.

JWT chance

JWT, which currently handles Pfizer's Celebrex, may also be buoyed by the acquisition of Cordiant division Bates Worldwide. Bates created the launch campaign for Pfizer's Lipitor.

Yentreve would not be a competitor to Pfizer's Detrol, which is for overactive-bladder condition and is considered a different medical condition than stress urinary incontinence.

Yentreve was submitted to the FDA for approval during the fourth quarter of last year. It is not known when the FDA will allow Eli Lilly to market a second product under the duloxetine umbrella.

Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim have a long-term agreement to market duloxetine around the world, excluding Japan.

contributing: rich thomaselli

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