Lundbeck of Denmark’s US partner Forest Laboratories has unveiled data

from a small head-to-head study which says the firms’ Lexapro/Cipralex is

more effective in treating moderate to severe depression than Eli Lilly’s


In the study, 270 patients between 18 and 80 were randomised to receive

either Lexapro (escitalopram) or the newer drug Cymbalta (duloxetine) for

eight weeks. The primary goal was a 50% improvement in depression symptoms as measured by the standard rating system MADRS (Montgomery and Aasberg Depression Rating Scale); the patients began the study with a MADRS score of 26 or greater.

68% who received Lexapro reached the improvement goal compared with 52% who responded to treatment with Cymbalta. In addition, 44% in the Lexapro group experienced near total disappearance of depression symptoms, compared with a 38% for Cymbalta, but this latter point was not deemed statistically significant.

Lexapro, a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, is the major driver of

earnings at Lundbeck and Forest, but sales have slowed down slightly with

the advent of competitiors like Cymbalta, a serotonin/noradrenaline

reuptake inhibitor.

This new study is unlikely to have a huge impact, but analyst Tim Anderson

at Prudential Equity said that the data will help Forest in its promotion

of Lexapro, which is also cheaper than the SNRIs on the market.