New pharmaceutical product launches, which had started to wane in the early 2010’s, are back, and some say with a vengeance. Yet, success for a new product launch remains elusive: as of March 2018, more than 50% of launches over the past 8 years have underperformed while 25% fail to reach even half of external revenues forecasts.
The good news is there’s a way to improve these odds, even ensuring that a product launch is fruitful.
3 Key Factors to a Fool-Proof Pharmaceutical Product Launch
Based on our experience and interaction with key clients, we’ve developed 3 key factors that can make or break a new product launch.
1.) Identify your key patient early on
Traditionally, the industry had focused on physicians at launch. Now more than ever, as for inline products, focus on the patient at launch is very important.
Knowing which patient to target for the therapy is critical: with more and more targeted drugs, companies need to consider early the possibility of companion diagnostics tools in order to ensure that patients will respond.
Understanding the patient experience is key: a convenient delivery system can dramatically improve adoption and adherence. Pfizer’s Exubera for diabetes launched back in 2006 was a striking example of this as the product was pulled after one year of disappointing sales (only $12M vs. expectations of more than $1B) partly due the bulkiness of the delivery system.
In addition, identifying patient types appropriate for the brand indication is a good way to start and will help prioritize resources. Marketing spend should be concentrated: “Reaching everyone is just like throwing a dart in the dark—make it meaningful by focusing on the segments that will help you drive to your specific bulls-eye”.
2.) Gather outcome data sooner rather than later
New trends reveal that market access is becoming more complex and outcome-based data is becoming more and more important. Building outcome data very early, as soon as phase 2 or 3, is very important.
A recent example with Amgen and Sanofi indicates that payers are not afraid of pushing back and to ask for outcomes data, ideally in line with ICER recommendations. Two new drugs were approved within weeks of each other back in the summer of 2015 in the lipid lowering agent class of PCSK9 inhibitors: Praluent from Sanofi/Regeneron and Repatha from Amgen.
Both drugs were priced $14K at launch. A highly restricted access by payers resulted in disappointing revenues (less than $225M in the US for each drug in 2017). Sanofi and Regeneron created a new study, Odyssey Outcomes trial, which generated new data about reducing adult CV patient’s risk of heart attack, stoke and unstable angina requiring hospitalization. The companies also reduced the list price to $5.8K before discount, or 60% less.
3.) Prepare the organization
The first six months are the most important for the product launch and will determine the fate of the product, and sometimes even the company. According to research from Quintiles, if launches remain on the trajectory that they established and that trajectory was very strong, then success is ensured.
It used to be that a new product launch was a relay race: the asset would be passed from one team to the next, without much communication or planning. Adding regional specificities when you would get to the markets and success could be based on luck more than skill.
Nowadays, ensuring that the whole team is on board right away is critical. The team starts with asset development team but bringing in marketing and commercial insights early in the process is a key success factor.
Cross functional experiential learning exercise can ensure that the whole team is on board with the strategy. Keys pieces to develop these skills include identifying key business priorities, customer insights, scenario planning, payor value story, targeting and go to market and messaging and activities.
Prepare your teams for success
As Louis Pasteur said more than a century ago, “Chance favors only the prepared mind” and we have found that practicing new product launch skills will dramatically increase your chances of a good launch.
Case Study: learn how StratX helped a top 10 biopharma company prepare a successful oncology drug launch.
In addition to preparing effective launches, Biopharma leaders must ensure that their teams are equipped to face critical emerging trends in the industry. We’ve identified 6 areas that leaders should focus on improving in the years to come in our white paper, Leading in Biotech & Pharma in 2020 & Beyond: Emerging Learning & Development Trends in Biopharma.