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Surging sales of Lundbeck's CNS drugs assist recovery

Two newer antidepressants help boost sales after Cipralex patent ends

Lundbeck headquarters 

Surging sales of four new central nervous system drugs helped Denmark's Lundbeck post a 5% sales increase in the second quarter, helping it emerge from its 'patent cliff'. 

Since its former blockbuster Cipralex (escitalopram) started to succumb to generic competition, Lundbeck has looked to two newer antidepressants - Brintellix/Trintellix (vortioxetine) and Rexulti (brexpiprazole) - to step in and fill the breach.

After a slow start, Brintellix is starting to accelerate with a 75% increase in sales to DKK 244m ($37m) in the second quarter, shrugging off the FDA's refusal to approve new data on its label showing it can improve cognitive function and lengthy pricing negotiations in some EU markets.

Meanwhile, Otsuka-partnered Rexulti - which made its debut as an add-on treatment for major depression and schizophrenia in the US a year ago - added another DKK193m. 

Those gains were encouraging and helped offset the continuing Cipralex decline, which lost another 13% to hit DKK 583m in the quarter.  

Meanwhile two other drugs played their part in the recovery. Schizophrenia depot Abilify Maintena (aripiprazole) was up 78% to DKK 279m, and new drug for high blood pressure associated with Parkinson's disease - Northera (droxidopa) - romped away with a 136% rise to DKK 250m.

Most of the gains came from the US market, where revenues rose by a third helping to offset weaker performance in other markets such as Europe, where sales fell 26%. Overall, group second quarter sales came in at DKK 3.75bn (around $570m).

The Danish pharma company also saw a healthy reduction in costs, thanks in part to lower R&D expenses compared to the same period of 2015 when Rexulti was approaching launch as well as the effects of a restructuring programme implemented by chief executive  Kare Schultz, who took up his post in May 2015.

Earnings before income and taxes were DKK 952m in the first half of the year, dramatically reversing a DKK 4.9bn loss a year ago. Lundbeck has now raised its revenue and earnings guidance for the year on the strength of the interim results.

Schultz said he was pleased with the sales performance, and also pointed to Lundbeck's R&D pipeline, which along with line extensions for Brintellix, Rexulti and Abilify Maintena, features a new Otsuka-partnered drug - idalopirdine - in trials for Alzheimer's disease.

Idalopirdine (Lu AE58054) is being tested as an add-on therapy to boost the effects of cholinesterase inhibitors in Alzheimer's, so could be a less risky proposition than drugs seeking to tackle the underlying cause of the disease such as BACE inhibitors. Phase III data are due next year.

Article by
Phil Taylor

25th August 2016

From: Sales



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