Pressure on sales of the antidepressant Lexapro in the USA has once again hurt Denmark’s Lundbeck, which has posted a 30% decline in 2006 net profits to 1.1 billion kroner or around $194 million.

The income shortfall is the result of declining sales of the active pharmaceutical ingredient for Lexapro (escitalopram oxalate) to US licensee Forest Laboratories, which is still trying to reduce its inventories. Total sales were up 2% to 9.2 billion crowns, slightly up on analysts’ expectations, and income from Lexapro declined 25% to 1.92 billion kroner, though actual US sales of the drug increased 13%.

Sales of Lundbeck's own Cipralex brand of the antidepressant advanced 34% to 3.51 billion kroner, while Alzheimer's disease drug Ebixa (memantine) climbed 23% to 1.36 billion kroner. The firm’s two products approved in 2005 - Azilect (rasagiline) for Parkinson's disease and Serdolect (sertindole) for schizophrenia – contributed 71 million and 10 million kroner, respectively.

Analysts were also impressed by the news that Lundbeck has started Phase II trials of its new schizophrenia drug Lu 31-130 in 210 patients on the back of positive results in preclinical and Phase I trials. The company noted that pre-clinical data suggest that Lu 31-130 shows antipsychotic activity combined with low extrapyramidal symptoms potential.