Lundbeck: Bidding for the Stars and Stripes - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Lundbeck: Bidding for the Stars and Stripes


Pharmaceutical Executive


Lead in for Lexapro

Perhaps the biggest surprise about Lundbeck is that Cipralex is marketed in the United States as Lexapro; rights holder Forest Labs leveraged the drug's well-tolerated, low side-effects profile to create an iconic blockbuster that held a 25 percent share of the anti-depressant market until its US patent expired in March. Lexapro, as well as another predecessor drug from Lundbeck, Celexa, helped Forest expand beyond its generic roots and establish itself as a household name in the US mental health practice community, while Lundbeck remained a bit of a cipher to the same.

Lundbeck's low profile has been accentuated by its distinct ownership model. The company's shares have been listed publicly only since 1999. And similar to its larger Danish counterpart, Novo Nordisk, some 70 percent of the company's shares are held by a foundation established in 1954 by the widow of founder Hans Lundbeck. Besides safeguarding the company's financial health, the Foundation has a mission to promote basic research geared to fighting neglected diseases, especially mental illness and related disorders of the brain. It donated $89 million to this end in 2011, above and beyond the average 20 percent of revenues (a ratio that is one of the highest in the industry) the company itself spends on R&D each year. Lundbeck CEO Ulf Wiinberg told Pharm Exec that while being publicly listed makes management accountable, the foundation's dominant share position gives executives more freedom to fly below the radar and focus on the longer term. "Without the foundation, we'd likely have been acquired years ago," he said.

Partnering around the brain

Although Lundbeck's name recognition might score low among the general public, especially outside Europe, reputation in this industry is built patient by patient: the deeper the roots you have in a community of the sick, the better the financial—and societal—return. Lundbeck applies this philosophy in two ways. First, by creating a company culture centered on partnership; not just with other institutions but also affecting how work is done internally. Second, through a highly specialized business strategy geared to the discovery, development, and commercialization of drugs for the treatment of CNS diseases.


We have 60 years of experience in working with the CNS and mental health communities. That intimacy with the patient extends to our business partners; they know we are deeply committed to neurologic and psychiatric disorders and we aren't going to surprise them with a sudden change in direction that undermines the relationship. —Staffan Schuberg
Melding the two is an overriding emphasis on the patient, not just as a marketing target but as a source of the science insight that drives clinical development. "Partnership is central to our DNA—between our research, clinical development and commercial teams—so it has been easy to extend this culture to the way we approach patients," says Lundbeck USA President Staffan Schuberg. "We have 60 years of experience in working with the CNS and mental health communities. That intimacy with the patient extends to our business partners; they know we are deeply committed to neurologic and psychiatric disorders and we aren't going to surprise them with a sudden change in direction that undermines the relationship."


Staffan Schuberg
For a small company, an internal culture built around patients and partnerships can be a source of leverage against competitors with a greater scale and geographic presence. This is especially evident in the United States, where the activism of patient groups has fostered networks with prescribing clinicians that would be difficult or very costly for any drug company to replicate on its own. For Lundbeck, insights from this patient journey of self-discovery has led to greater understanding of the therapeutic impact of CNS disorders, affecting the design of trials, lowering the cost of trial recruitment, and—hopefully—boosting relations with the disease community once its medicines are approved.

Lundbeck's culture of inclusion begins with recruitment. Says Dan Brennan, VP and general manager for neurology, "the selection process in our US sales force starts with a fundamental question: Is the candidate more about 'we' or 'me?' Most of the reps in Big Pharma come from a culture that touts individual advancement—being first—and unfortunately this perspective has been enhanced by all the downsizing. With such a big applicant pool, we have the ability to screen for specific personality types, who want to make that extra connection to patients and the disease through a cultural sensitivity on what it takes to be a good partner."


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