Lundbeck recruiting 200-plus sales reps for Brintellix launch

Lundbeck is fired up and ready for its launch of the potential blockbuster antidepressant Brintellix. Though still awaiting regulatory approval, the Danish drugmaker is recruiting more than 200 sales reps to prepare for take-off, Bloomberg reports.

CFO Anders Gotzsche figures the drug, to be co-promoted in the U.S. with Japan's Takeda Pharmaceutical, will break the blockbuster barrier--and perhaps hit $2 billion in peak sales. The company expects word on approval from European and U.S. regulators later this year. To lay the groundwork, the two companies are setting up "a significant sales force" right now, Gotzsche told the news service. "It will definitely be more than 200," he said.

It's something of a turnabout for Lundbeck, which has been laying off workers and restructuring as it faces generic competition for its biggest drug, the antidepressant Cipralex, sold by Forest Laboratories ($FRX) as Lexapro in the U.S.

Lundbeck needs Brintellix to fill that yawning Cipralex/Lexapro sales gap. Both name brands face generic rivals, and Lundbeck's share of the proceeds dropped by 2.1 billion kronor last year, or about $374 million. Though generic competition is expected to eat away at the depression market through 2022, researchers at Decision Resources expect Brintellix to be one of the most successful new products--and agree with Gotzsche that it's likely to become a blockbuster.

The company has other new drugs to lean on, too, but none pegged with sales expectations the size of Brintellix's. For instance, Lundbeck is in the process of rolling out its alcohol addiction treatment Selincro in Europe. Abilify Maintena, a long-acting version of the antipsychotic drug, launched in the U.S. in April. Overall, the company's new products grew by 48% for the first half of this year, to 1.4 billion kronor.

In reporting its latest results, Lundbeck raised its full-year guidance, in part because of that sales growth. The company now expects revenue of 14.6 billion to 15 billion kronor, with earnings before interest and taxes at 1.3 billion to 1.7 billion kronor. This quarter's earnings took a major hit, though, from an antitrust fine that topped $90 million, pushing Lundbeck's operating loss to 506 million kronor. And that's taking a toll on 2013 earnings expectations. Without the fine, Lundbeck notes, its expectations for EBIT would be 2 billion to 2.4 billion kronor.

- see Lundbeck's earnings release (PDF)
- get the Bloomberg news
- read the PharmaTimes story

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