Managing Multiple Drug Launches


Traditionally Pharma companies used to launch one or two blockbuster assets a year. This resulted in a one-size-fits-all approach to their launches regarding positioning, go-to-market strategy and resourcing.

Today the pharmaceutical industry is in the midst of fundamental change. This has been brought on by a number of factors including expiry of patents of major blockbuster drugs, growing competition from generics (which now account for 3 in 4 pills), weak product pipelines, heightened public awareness of drug safety, efficacy and value, globalization and growing value considerations regarding access to and reimbursement of new specialty therapeutics.

As a result, instead of launching one or more large products each year, in-depth pipeline assessments show Pharmaceutical companies now launch many smaller products with more intense competition. Launching five to 10 new products annually poses different challenges than launching a single blockbuster. A broader product portfolio mix requires pharmaceutical companies to employ a new approach.

However it appears that the industry has not yet adjusted its launch policies to the new reality. One sign of this is that half of all launches in their peak sales range did not meet anticipated levels, with half of those missing expectations by 50% or more. How should they adapt?

To improve your new drug’s chances to succeed, you ought to deploy a launch strategy that fits its specific needs, is constantly monitored, and can be adjusted on the fly to maximize reach and optimize your target spend. Launch strategies vary for different launch types. Two of the most meaningful variables that distinguish and predict success are the size of the target population and how payers and providers perceive product differentiation. In addition there are several other major variables differentiating launches. These include:

Novelty – A new therapeutic has no competition, but neither does it have an established market or continuing prescribers. Brand management here is therefore challenging. Payer negotiations might be extremely difficult with a non-established therapeutic.

Self-Competition – The company already has a drug for this market and is introducing a new one. They therefore must be cautious not to cannibalize the veteran product.

Complicated/Risky – Complicated therapeutics require training, careful brand management and the supply of information to account managers.

Regulatory Concerns – Governance regarding pharmaceuticals differs according to many factors – For example, geography. In some areas it is legal and in others it is not.

Each of these drug categories are unique and require a unique launch strategy configured for its specific needs and accurately answering the precise business questions that come up with the launch. To continuously track the performance of your launch and be able to course correct every component of it quickly and efficiently, pharmaceutical companies need a flexible analytics solution that can meet the specific requirements of every one of your multiple launches, and is agile enough to morph at the speed of the business.