Sleep drug could be next big thing for Eli Lilly

INDIANAPOLIS Eli Lilly is hoping its new sleeping drug, which it acquired when it bought the company Hypnion for $315 million, will become a huge seller in the booming sleep drug market, according to published reports.

Last year, Americans spent about $4 billion on prescription sleeping pills and that figure is expected to grow to $5.5 billion by 2014, according to BioMarket. More than 43 million prescriptions for sleeping pills were filled in 2005, up nearly 60 percent since 2000, according to IMS Health.

Hypnion is developing a new kind of sleeping drug designed to help trigger the natural mechanism of sleep, rather than just conking out a person with a sedative, as many sleeping drugs do. The Hypnion drug is in Phase 2 clinical testing, still several years away from the market.

Lilly officials say early tests show the drug is nonaddicting, doesn’t produce a hangover, and increases what sleep scientists call restful, slow-wave sleep. “It is designed to let you sleep, rather than to make you sleep,” said Steven Paul, Lilly’s executive vice president for science and technology. “I think this could be a very, very important medicine, and thus a very important product for our company.”

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