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Lilly CEO to undergo surgery, CFO Rice to become interim CEO

Eli Lily and Company's President and CEO John Lechleiter speaks during the APEC CEO summit in Honolulu, Hawaii November 11, 2011. REUTERS/Ch
Eli Lily and Company's President and CEO John Lechleiter speaks during the APEC CEO summit in Honolulu, Hawaii November 11, 2011. REUTERS/Ch

(Reuters) - Eli Lilly & Co's longtime Chief Executive John Lechleiter will undergo surgery next Monday for a dilated aorta, but is expected to make a full recovery from the potentially dangerous condition and return to work this summer, the drugmaker said on Monday.

Lilly Chief Financial Officer Derica Rice, 48, will assume the additional role of acting CEO during Lechleiter's surgery and recovery period, the Indianapolis drugmaker said.

Lechleiter, 59, had no symptoms of the condition, but learned of it during recent unrelated medical testing, Lilly said.

Rice and Lechleiter have worked closely together over the past four years in formulating plans to revive Lilly's earnings and sales after ongoing generic competition for some of its biggest drugs, including its Zyprexa schizophrenia drug.

Many other large drugmakers have merged with another big pharmaceuticals company in order to withstand their patent cliffs. But Rice and Lechleiter have adamantly insisted that Lilly will remain independent, and depend instead on a stream of its future new drugs to put it back on its feet financially.

(Reporting by Ransdell Pierson; Editing by Richard Chang)

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