Lundbeck launches alcohol dependence drug Selincro in heavy-drinking countries

Danish drugmaker Lundbeck has been suffering a severe hangover after losing patent protection last year on the blockbuster antidepressant Lexapro. It was forced to whack jobs, and its financial outlook, as sales went into a tailspin. It now hopes to regain at least a bit of that vaporized revenue as it launches its alcohol dependence drug Selincro in some European countries. 

Lundbeck said today that it is selling Selincro in Norway, Finland, Poland and the Baltic countries. The drug was approved by the European Commission in February for the reduction of alcohol consumption in patients with alcohol dependence. In clinical trials, Selincro reduced alcohol consumption by about 60% after 6 months. The drug is an opioid receptor antagonist, designed to break the brain's reward mechanism when alcoholics drink. Rather than preventing drinking, it's expected to help reduce alcohol dependence.

Peter Welford, an analyst at Jefferies International in London, has put the low end of sales at $55 million with peak potential of $300 million. That is not the blockbuster level that Lexapro once held but the revenue is sorely needed by Lundbeck, which in June axed 600 jobs, mostly in Europe. The company is first targeting the EU, where annual per capita alcohol use at 12.18 liters (3.2 gallons) is twice the global average and 40% higher than in the Americas. Lundbeck said it plans further launches this year and in 2014. It has been stated previously that they would seek approval in Russia, and then in China, Japan and South Korea. 

Lundbeck last year told investors not to expect earnings growth again until 2015 as sales of Lexapro, marketed as Cipralex outside the U.S., bleed away. The company said it would lose about 80% of its Lexapro sales to generic competition last year and 90% this year. Lundbeck licensed Lexapro to Forest Laboratories ($FRX), which was also hit hard by the patent loss. 

- here's the release