Biopharma product launches have been instrumental in bringing innovative therapies to patients, invariably driving growth and market success. And 2020 is expected to be no different. Manufacturers plan to launch more than 150 therapies, including treatments for cancer and neurological disorders.

But COVID-19 threatens to slow new therapy acceptance by limiting in-person sales force promotions, in-office patient visits, lab testing, and hospitalization. Commercial teams risk failing to create pre-launch disease awareness or competitive differentiation—and falling short of launch expectations. Additionally, financial insecurities elevate adoption hurdles for select therapies.

Facing unprecedented disruptions across patient continuums and in-person promotional channels, commercial teams are asking tough questions:

  • Should we postpone product launch?
  • How do we adapt go-to-market strategies to overcome these hurdles—and pivot back when normalcy returns?

Create a New Playbook

As companies revise go-to-market strategies to navigate COVID-19, it can be tempting to follow the standard launch playbook. Commercial teams should first define potential scenarios and assess their impact on launch uptake and the net sales forecast. While forecasts can help determine whether to launch as scheduled, companies with limited resources and competitors on their heels may not have the luxury to delay launch.

Companies should focus outwards and address these patient- and provider-centric questions:

  • How does COVID-19 affect the patient journey? How can we tailor launch strategies to improve patient awareness, encourage discussions with providers, and ensure timely therapy access?
  • How do we reduce financial barriers to trial and adoption?
  • How does COVID-19 affect physicians’ abilities to treat patients—and how can we help?
  • Which channels do providers prefer? How can we drive physician awareness, positive perceptions, and usage?

Help Providers Treat Their Patients

After examining bottlenecks in the patient journey, commercial teams should offer out-of-the-box solutions to ensure uninterrupted care. These include in-home testing, infusions, and injections; virtual and in-home nursing; dedicated case managers; transportation for in-office visits; and copay and financial support. Commercial teams could also consider fast-tracking longer-acting infusion, self-injectable, and oral treatment options. In addition, they could enhance programs for providers, such as telemedicine access to all patients, fast-passes for in-office patient visits, benefit investigations, rebates, reimbursement support, safer in-home injection and infusion options, as well as payer coverage and timely drug access.

Adopt Non-Personal Promotions

Based on a full COVID-19 impact analysis on providers and patients, commercial teams must turn to virtual calls and events—but still risk underdelivering unbranded and branded promotion to targets. Commercial teams should consider investing in contract sales organizations, nursing teams, webinars, digital, TV, and non-personal promotional channels and systems to expand reach and increase disease awareness and brand awareness, thereby driving usage among providers and patients. Further, they should leverage advanced analytics to proactively identify emerging patients and then engage their providers to ensure adoption.

Companies that challenge the status quo in serving their customers will be able to navigate around COVID-19 turbulence for successful launches and position themselves for long-term success.

  • Janardhan Vellore

    Janardhan Vellore is Vice President at Beghou Consulting. Janardhan has more than 15 years of experience in the healthcare industry and management consulting. He works with biopharmaceutical companies on their data, reporting, sales, marketing, patient services and payer strategies.

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