Danish drugmaker Lundbeck has slashed its financial targets for 2006 on the back of weaker than expected sales of Lexapro, an antidepressant, in the USA.

Shares in the company closed down more than 8% at 133.25 kroner yesterday, after issuing a statement that the US licensee for Lexapro (escitalopram), Forest Laboratories, had reduced its inventory levels for the product, indicating slower than expected sales.

Forest has cut the amount of bulk escitalopram it intends to buy from Lundbeck by approximately 12 tonnes in 2006 and, as a result, Lundbeck has said its earlier target of a growth in operating profit of at least 12% this year will not be achieved.

The US company is aiming to keep 10 months’ supply of the ingredient, rather than 16 months up to now, and expects to have around 20 tones in inventory by the end of 2006, compared to 32 tonnes at end-2005.

The Danish drugmaker said it is now predicting earnings before interest and taxes of around 1.6 billion kroner ($256 million) in 2006, with revenue from Forest estimated at 1.7 billion kroner. Analysts had expected EBIT to be around 2.5 billion kroner.

Lundbeck said it is retaining its financial target for 2007 of an EBIT margin of 25% excluding a potential milestone payment of $75 million from Merck & Co in connection with the filing of a registration application in the USA for sleep disorder drug gaboxadol.