Lexapro sales tank by 81% as Icahn fires back at Forest Labs

The bell continues to toll for Lexapro. And Carl Icahn wants every Forest Laboratories ($FRX) shareholder to hear it. As Forest reported a 79% drop in earnings, falling short of analyst expectations, Icahn issued his latest attack on management, defending his nominees to the company's board and citing the company's "underperformance" compared with other drugmakers.

But Forest and its CEO Howard Solomon were just as vocal. The company called Icahn's latest sally a "desperate attempt" to defend his "weak and conflicted" nominees. And Solomon used the earnings pulpit to preach about Forest's revival.

Yes, Forest's lead drug, which recently went off patent, slipped to $110 million in second-quarter sales.That's down from $585.7 million year over year, an 81% decline. But new products--including Namenda for Alzheimer's disease and Bystolic for high blood pressure--all grew during the quarter. Bystolic sales leapt by 38.2%, while Namenda grew by 15% to $368 million.

The even newer Viibryd, Teflaro, and Daliresp chimed in with sales ranging from $9.4 million to $37.4 million. Together, that doesn't go far toward filling the Lexapro gap, but it's a start. "It is still early days for these products but they are performing well in line with our expectations," Solomon said.

At least one Forest analyst agreed. "The new products are the bright side, in particular the growth of Bystolic and Viibryd," Sanford C. Bernstein's Ronny Gal told Reuters. "These are very nice numbers in largely generic markets."

The question is whether shareholders listen to Solomon's upbeat outlook or Icahn's ongoing diatribe. The annual meeting is coming up August 15. No doubt we'll hear plenty from both sides before then.

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