Lundbeck: Bidding for the Stars and Stripes

Oct 01, 2012

As the blockbuster sales model fades, the rush is on for a new formula for growth. "Good" growth: niched, balanced, and sustainable; with high margins from protected pricing; more patient-friendly than patent-centric; and where revenues draw from a deep reservoir of unmet medical need. The sized up, process-driven culture of Big Pharma is finding that new formula hard to swallow: it's a select menu of lean cuisine, without the familiar protein of mass promotion. In fact, the truest advocates of the new "good" growth come from unexpected quarters—what we at Pharm Exec call the "stealth" companies, those second tier players who aspire to reach the top by achieving a dominant market position around targeted drugs for underserved conditions. In the following profile, Pharm Exec takes a closer look at how one key mid-tier player—Denmark's H. Lundbeck—is counting on the momentum of the big US market to vault it to global leadership in treatments that unlock the hard science of the human brain.

From left to right: Anders Buur, VP, US drug development; Sally Benjamin Young, VP, US public affairs; Peter Anastasiou, VP and general manager, US Psychiatry; Dan Brennan, VP and general manager, Neurology; Joe Nolan, chief commercial officer; and Staffan Schuberg, president US.
Understatement is core to the Nordic psyche, which raises an interesting question: In a business driven by a complex mix of hope and hype, is it Lundbeck's misfortune to be Danish? "A company of quiet accounts" is how one analyst describes Lundbeck's trajectory since its founding in 1915 by a Danish trading executive, Hans Lundbeck, whose mission was to keep the neutral Danes well supplied with everything from butter to cosmetics during the Great War and beyond. Some early marketing of painkillers led to a post-1945 commitment to the still nascent field of psycho-pharmaceuticals, which culminated in 1959 with the launch of Truxal, the first recognized treatment for schizophrenia and a world-class brand that expanded the company presence beyond Denmark.

Still, relatively little is known in the United States about Lundbeck's subsequent emergence as a company uniquely dedicated to the discovery and development of medicines for CNS disorders. For example, despite its diminutive size compared to Lilly and Pfizer in the high-growth category of anti-depressants, Lundbeck's labs have regularly spawned drugs that provide a forward step in therapy through new modes of action, providing clinicians and patients with more choice. Lundbeck scientists synthesized and introduced one of the first trycyclic anti-depressants and its early investigations on the SSRI class pre-dated the Big Pharma competition. The company's biggest seller, an SSRI with the proprietary name Cipralex, helped transform the company from a European to a truly multinational enterprise after it was introduced in 2002.

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