Strong sales of the antidepressant Lexapro in the USA have helped Denmark's Lundbeck to post stronger-than-expected profits for the third quarter, with net income leaping 67% to 713 million Danish kroner, about $140 million.

Earnings were boosted by a 217 million kroner one-off payment from Takeda Pharmaceutical Co in connection with the firms’ recently-signed anxiety disorder pact. Revenues were up 32% to 2.96 billion kroner, helped by another strong showing of the blockbuster Lexapro (escitalopram), sold in the USA by licensee Forest Laboratories, which had sales of 699 million kroner, up 46%. Turnover of Lundbeck's own Cipralex brand of the antidepressant advanced 19% to 1.05 billion kroner.

The Alzheimer's disease drug Ebixa (memantine) climbed 27% to 432 million kroner and two of the firm's newer products - Azilect (rasagiline) for Parkinson's disease and Serdolect (sertindole) for schizophrenia - contributed 46 million and 10 million kroner, respectively.

Chief executive Claus Braestrup said that the results were impressive, leading the firm to upgrade its full-year earnings forecast from 2.5 to more than 2.6 billion kroner. In terms of R&D, Lundbeck noted that proof of concept was recently achieved in a Phase II trial with Lu AA21004 for the treatment of mood and anxiety disorders, while the insomnia treatment Circadin (melatonin), licensed-in from Israel's Neurim Pharmaceuticals, will be launched in Europe in the first half of 2008.

Lundbeck’s shares rose 3.4% to 153 kroner on the news and analysts were impressed by the way the firm is managing its business, leaving aside for the moment its sparse late-stage pipeline. As for the investigational stroke drug desmoteplase, which recently failed a late-stage trial, the company said it is not going to abandon the project just yet and co-developer Paion is currently looking for a US partner to help the drug along.

Lundbeck concluded by noting that it will continue with a share buyback programme which should be completed by the end of 2008.