Eli Lilly (NYSE:LLY) seems to have a lot more in common with its development-stage little brothers than it does with its big pharma brethren. Progress of the company's pipeline has become a lot more important than growth in earnings.

Last year, investors didn't seem to have much confidence in it:


2009 Adjusted EPS Growth (YOY)

2009 Increase (Decrease) in Share Price

Eli Lilly



Abbott Labs (NYSE:ABT)



Novartis (NYSE:NVS)



Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ)



Source: Company press releases.

Eli Lilly is scheduled to lose Zyprexa next year, a $4.9 billion drug, followed in two years by its second largest revenue driver Cymbalta, which brings in $3 billion a year. Investors are rightfully ignoring current growth and looking into the future, which doesn't look nearly as pretty.

Take Eli Lilly's long-awaited Effient that was approved last summer. The blood thinner, which competes against sanofi-aventis (NYSE:SNY) and Bristol-Myers Squibb's (NYSE:BMY) blockbuster Plavix, managed just $3.8 million in sales in the fourth quarter. That's not even close to replacing Zyprexa or Cymbalta.

On the other hand, the company was able to secure the future of one of its pipeline drugs today although it wasn't everything investors could have hoped for. Since Eli Lilly purchased ImClone Systems back in 2008, the company has been "debating" with Bristol-Myers, which claims that its marketing partnership for Erbitux also covered ImClone's follow-on drug, IMC-11F8.

Today, Lilly and Bristol announced that they had settled their differences. The companies will share development and profits of IMC-11F8 in the U.S., Canada, and Japan and Eli Lilly gets the drug in the rest of the world. Not as great as having IMC-11F8 all to itself, but probably better than fighting in court about it.

With a dividend that's above 5%, it's tempting to just buy Eli Lilly and wait for a recovery, but chasing high yields is rarely a good idea. If you're interested in buying a drugmaker that will trade based on the success of its pipeline, you might as well just go out and buy a true development-stage drugmaker.

Johnson & Johnson is an Income Investor recommendation. To see how dividend-paying stocks can offer both secure income and the opportunity for growth, take a free look at this newsletter with a 30-day free trial.

Fool contributor Brian Orelli, Ph.D., doesn't own shares of any company mentioned in this article. Novartis is a Global Gains selection. The Fool has a disclosure policy.