As Lundbeck faces up to patent expirations and a bare pipeline, it appears that there have been a few problems at management level as well given the news that the Danish firm’s chairman has stepped down earlier than expected.

The group issued a statement saying that Flemming Lindelov has decided to resign his duties as chairman and leave Lundbeck’s supervisory board “in order to restore some calm around the company”. He was expected to leave at the annual general meeting next April but has left early, to be succeeded by Per Wold-Olsen.

The call to restore calm comes after newspapers in Denmark reported that Mr Lindelov had said that chief executive Claus Braestrup would leave his post when his contract expires in the spring of 2009. This came as news to Mr Braestrup who was reported as saying he had no plans to step down, and this led to a quick response from Mr Lindelov who claimed that the media had misunderstood his remarks.

Mr Lindelov’s departure led to a slight rise in Lundbeck’s share price and analysts believe that the appointment of Mr Wold-Olsen now means that management can unite in guiding the firm through this tricky period. The company remains exposed to the weak US dollar and looming patent expiries starting in 2012 of the blockbuster Lexapro (escitalopram), sold in the USA by licensee Forest Laboratories, and Lundbeck's own Cipralex brand of the antidepressant.

The company also recently announced disappointing Phase III data for the new stroke drug desmoteplase, which came a couple of months after Lundbeck and partner Merck & Co said that data from Phase III studies suggested that the clinical profile for gaboxadol in insomnia did not support further development. Last month, Mr Braestrup acknowledged that the firm was in a crisis of sorts and needs to find a replacement for Lexapro/Cipralex and fast.