4 Secrets of Successful Drug Launches Marketers Must Know

About two-thirds of all drug launches fail to meet prelaunch sales expectations during the first year the product is in market. According to McKinsey, research indicates that only about 30% of compounds that enter the market recover R&D costs, and approximately half of products achieve less than 50% of sales that were forecast a year before launch. For pharmaceutical companies, a successful commercialization strategy is the key driver to meet growth expectations. So why do a majority of brands still under-deliver results? Marketers should consider these four things during a product launch:

1. Be Specific and Precise in Your Launch Efforts

Just like their patients, physicians have become a lot savvier in their research of therapies and medications. With the influx of new product information at the physicians’ fingertips, doctors do not have time to sift through what is important and what’s not. How does one break through the noise and create impact for a successful launch? As we make more targeted molecular discoveries, it will be incumbent on marketers to be more efficient at not only creating awareness around the condition, but also identifying the appropriate patients who are candidates even before product launch.

By finding the patient types that are appropriate for the brand’s indication, the focus should be on the physicians who disproportionately treat those patients to educate them on the value of the product. Just as R&D dollars are now shifting to targeted treatments, marketing spend should be more 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. Look at Behaviors—Not Just Access

Now more than ever, “access” has become a buzzword that the pharmaceutical industry loves to use. However, the meaning of the word has been diluted to encompass anything from formulary status to pricing structures of a drug. Reimbursement is a big component to getting the medication into the hands of the patient. Brands should be able to provide access tools for the providers so that the process is seamless for all the stakeholders involved—and not a 15-step process.

However, even if the drug is on every formulary, physician and patient needs should be prioritized appropriately in order to drive uptake. Marketers need to find ways to understand what these behaviors are and support the habitual change to get physicians to change their routine.

With the onslaught of digital tools, we have more information than ever before to understand how patients are complying with the product and to see if they are indeed getting better. Provide the pathway for the tool—and not just the resources—in order to expand from good to great.

3. Involve Other Product Influencers

Beyond patients and physicians, marketers must look to the other stakeholders who shape the product. Even the political climate plays a factor in payer landscape for drug reimbursement.

Who are the patient advocates, caregivers, and others—including media and analysts—who have a stake in the product? How are these groups perceiving the drug and what can we do to ensure that they have the knowledge base and support necessary to have a complete and thorough understanding of the drug? How do we keep nurturing these stakeholders to make sure that they have the resources that they need to accelerate their engagement and interest of the product? Address the community and not just the prescribers.

4. Focus on the Long Term

While most pharmaceutical companies focus on the launch of the product, it is important to think about the entire lifecycle of the brand and how to achieve long-term sustainable growth. Analysts have found that on average, products that reached their peak more slowly ultimately outperformed those that reached their peak more quickly. For marketers, this means meeting the need to have a robust lifecycle plan to help further drive growth and demonstrate value for the product over a longer period of time.

Collecting and leveraging outcomes data to provide proof to payers of the product’s worth is an essential follow-up to commercialization. As a result, many pharma companies are now doing Phase IV trials even after commercialization. Addressing the key barriers and challenges of the constantly evolving brand is necessary in an age that now values smart, adaptive growth more than ever.

Like any other industry, the pharmaceutical world is evolving and moving towards a more efficient model. In five to 10 years, everything we know to exist will change. Clinical trials will be different. Patient data will no longer be collected only at the doctor’s office. Generating real-world-evidence data may be a mandatory addendum to a clinical trial and not just an exercise. Marketers will need an even more customized strategy and execution plan to be successful in the future.

  • Erik Dalton

    Erik Dalton is Executive Vice President at Healthcasts. Erik has helped spearhead the evolution of Healthcasts since 2005, from a video engagement company to a multichannel, on-demand educational experience for physicians. His leadership drives market growth and product innovation for the company.


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