Four common mistakes when planning a new drug launch …..and how to avoid them

In the fiercely competitive Life Sciences market, the launch period of a new drug or medical device is most critical to its overall success. Alas, there is a lot of uncertainty and ambiguity during the first months of any new product in the market. The competitive landscape is not well defined, payer formulary status has not been established, and marketing campaigns may not be well focused. Bad managerial decisions could set back years of investment and result in huge expenses. Understanding the biggest pitfalls commercial operations managers encounter during launch can help prevent failure and plot a clear path towards success. 

What are the biggest mistakes sales and marketing managers make before and during a new product’s launch and how can you steer clear of them?

1. Looking at a partial picture and ignoring data that might be crucial

Sure, a big part of launching a drug revolves around sales operations and brand management – marketing campaigns, promotions, introduction to your customer base, targeting prospective prescribers, etc. But often lost in the mix are other important factors – formulary position, payer contracts, competitive information, procurement data, and so much more. These other factors often have a critical impact on the success of a launch. It is important to be aware of them and take all that data into consideration when making decisions about the launch – where to put more sales effort, how to spend marketing dollars, what can be expected when calling upon certain prescribers, how much demand elasticity you have, etc.

To guarantee a successful launch, you need a deep understanding of your customers and the market you’re targeting. That means understanding how each and every component of the launch process affects its success. Questions such as:

  • Is there direct competition to my new drug or is it a new therapeutic?
  • What is the profile of physicians prescribing this type of drug?
  • Did my Managed Markets team establish the positioning of the new drug with Managed Care companies?
  • Is there a concern of cannibalization of any of our existing drugs?

To create a comprehensive picture of everything related to your new drug and its launch process, you’ll need to integrate any possible piece of data that seems even remotely related to the launch and analyze it all together for any correlation or interdependency between the various elements involved.

Anticipating how well your product performs at any point in time during the launch will help you be prepared and make wise decisions moving forward. You want to ensure that you haven’t overlooked any piece of data and that you’re looking at the latest and most up-to-date version of it. 

2. Working in Silos

For effective launch planning and execution, company departments should work together. A cross-functional view of affairs is necessary for a successful launch. With a cooperative team, Brand management can learn the concerns and needs of Sales, incorporating new insights that can be instrumental for positioning of the new drug. Likewise, Managed Markets can learn from Sales Operations and adjust their negotiations with payers. Unfortunately, collaboration between departments is often quite a foreign prospect in Pharma companies, long organized by silos and strict division of tasks, yet it shouldn’t be the case for sharing information. It is essential that all departments view a single version of the truth and make decisions based on the same database.

As mentioned in point one, all data that matters should be integrated into a single, comprehensive picture. Next, it is essential that all departments involved in the launch, derive their analytics based on this single set of information. Ambiguity and confusion is caused by using different reports, based on different sets of data, often even from different systems. The only way to prevent this miscommunication between the different departments and be fully aware of important interdependencies is by having a single version of the truth at the heart of all commercial operations. 

3. Failure to change at the speed of business

The Life Sciences market is a very dynamic one, with new products, regulations, medical research, and business pressures changing on a daily basis. When it comes to a new product launch, the business shifts gears with critical changes happening constantly. When making important business decisions, you want to make sure that the information you rely on is the latest, most complete information. You want to ensure you are using the most up-to-date metrics and are aware of any unexpected issues that are bound to come up.

An analytical solution for a new product launch must be constantly updated to reflect the latest data about products, prescribers, payers, formulary status, the marketplace, etc. You want to be able to always dig into geographies, segments, and regions to get an accurate view of affairs.

KPIs measuring outdated data are confusing at best.

Many analytical solutions are not flexibly designed for easy and rapid implementation of change. When selecting a solution for your launch, make sure to look into change management and understand how the solution will morph at the speed of your business. The notoriously low usage rate of BI systems is usually due to those systems becoming outdated, much sooner than expected.

4. Using a cookie cutter analytical solution

Launching a new product is a complicated process that involves a variety of elements that may contribute to its success, or, when overlooked, hinder it. Every launch of a new drug, medical device, or specialty Pharma treatment, has its own unique set of business rules: Is it a brand new therapeutic? Do we have continuing prescribers for this drug? Is there any recognized competition? Do we have an established formulary status? Do we have a specific allocation methodology? These are just a few characteristics that affect your analytical needs. It takes in-depth domain expertise to tailor an analytical solution that wisely incorporates all relevant business rules for your new drug’s launch.

Different functions might be involved with each launch, and you must address the unique needs of each one of them – don’t just dump irrelevant information on people. Do we need to involve procurement? Are there any regulatory concerns? Are there any geographic limitations, etc.? Again, domain expertise is the key to configuring a solution that addresses the exact needs of each and every role involved with your launch. 

While general purpose reporting solutions might have all the data on hand, you will be much better off with a system that is designed to pinpoint the most important information that is relevant for your specific needs, rather than be drowned in a sea of reports. You want a solution that can deliver actionable insights on what drives your customers and your target market. Look for an analytical solution that was designed for Pharma launches and that is flexible enough to be configured to your exact, particular needs. Moreover, while all people involved in the launch want to use the same version of the truth, different functions need to look at different details and different levels of depth, so your analytical system should have role based configurations that allows every user to see exactly what he needs to see, and no more. 


The first months of a new drug’s life are the most critical for its future success in the marketplace. The launch process of a drug can be filled with uncertainty, confusion and frustration. Life Sciences business managers that avoid the above common pitfalls during their new product’s launch and strengthen it with quality analytics will be poised for success. Throughout the various phases of the launch, using a dedicated analytical solution can help you answer key questions and provide important insights, supporting your process and removing the dangerous uncertainty that can doom your new drug’s commercial success.

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