Eli Lilly (LLY) said its fourth-quarter profit fell 27% on patent expirations but still beat Wall Street expectations, as the company tightened costs and grew in emerging markets.  

The drug maker posted net income of $858.2 million, or 77 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier $1.7 billion, or $1.05. Excluding one-time items, it earned 87 cents, trumping average analyst estimates of 81 cents in a Thomson Reuters poll.

“Although we anticipated the sales erosion in the fourth quarter resulting from the loss of U.S. patent exclusivity for Zyprexa in late October, I am encouraged by the strong performance of many other areas of our business,” Lilly CEO Dr. John Lechleiter said in a statement.

Lilly schizophrenia drug Zyprexa, by far its biggest drug by sales, made $1.18 billion in the third quarter of 2011, the last period before it lost its exclusivity. In the fourth quarter, it made just $749.6 million, a decrease of 44%.

Revenue for the three-month period was $6.05 billion, down 2% from $6.19 million, beating the Street’s view of $5.9 billion. Sales were led by anti-depressant Cymbalta, Humalog insulin, lung-cancer treatment Alimta and Cialis, as well as a robust Japanese market.

The company backed its 2012 profit that calls for a sharp drop in profit, with non-GAAP earnings in the range of $3.10 to $3.20 a share. Wall Street is looking for a profit of $3.18.

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