Denmark's Lundbeck has posted a 41% leap in net income to 924 million kroner, around $191 million, for the first quarter with growth being driven once again by the blockbuster antidepressant Lexapro.

Lexapro (escitalopram), sold in the USA by licensee Forest Laboratories, had sales of 661 million kroner, up 5%, while turnover of Lundbeck's own Cipralex brand of the antidepressant advanced 23% to 1.22 billion kroner.The Alzheimer's disease drug Ebixa (memantine) climbed 17% to 457 million kroner, while sales of Azilect (rasagiline) leapt 61% to 54 million kroner.

In terms of R&D, Lundbeck noted that Lu AA21004 for depression, which is partnered with Takeda, has moved into more new Phase III trials, while the insomnia treatment Circadin (melatonin), licensed-in from Israel's Neurim Pharmaceuticals, should be launched in 15 European markets later this year. Last month, Lundbeck signed an expanded agreement with Neurim to market Circadin next year in Asia, Latin America and other major markets such as Australia and Turkey.

Lundbeck reiterated its previous full-year guidance for sales of 11-11.5 billion kroner and operating profit of 2.8-2.9 billion kroner. However analysts are still concerned that the pipeline is still not strong enough to help the firm overcome the patent expirations for Cipralex and Lexapro that are coming in 2012 through 2014.

Finding new drugs to fill that gap in the pipeline and at a reasonable price will be the major priority for new chief executive Ulf Wiinberg who will take up his new position on June 1. Mr Wiinberg is leaving Wyeth, where he has worked for 27 years and overseen that firm’s biopharmaceutical activities. He was also in charge of Wyeth’s Europe, Middle East, Africa and Canada division.