Lundbeck is cutting around 600 jobs in Europe from its sales forces in response to the tough environment and generic competition to its flagship antidepressant Cipralex/Lexapro.

The Danish firm says the restructuring is necessary because it needs to establish "a more flexible commercial infrastructure with respect to detailing to general practitioners ahead of multiple future product launches and partly to maintain cost control". The plan aims to "mitigate increased pressure from healthcare reforms, generic competition and uncertainty regarding pricing and reimbursement in Europe".

Chief executive Ulf Wiinberg says that "the market environment in Europe is changing rapidly at a time when Lundbeck has numerous new products to launch". These include Selincro (nalmefene) for the treatment of alcohol dependence and a new antidepressant called Lu AA21004.

The cuts come at a time when Cipralex (escitalopram), known as Lexapro in the USA where it is sold by Forest Laboratories, has lost its patent protection. First-quarter sales of the former slipped 4% to 1.47 billion kroner (now about $250 million), hit by generic competition in Spain, while Lexapro sank 55% to 336 million kroner.

The 600 jobs will be lost across all Lundbeck subsidiaries in Europe bit the firm says it will continue with the current plans for investments in markets of growth, namely the USA and international markets. It added that "we will do our utmost to manage the process in a respectful way and will now initiate a consultation process regarding the anticipated staff reductions with the works councils in the most affected markets".

The restructuring will cost in the region of 500 million kroner in 2012, but the exact amount will be dependent on its implementation and "negotiations with various local stakeholders". Lundbeck added that earnings before interest, tax, deprecation and amortisation should still be in the region of 3.0-3.5 billion kroner this year.