Data: The Unlikely Star in a New ADHD Drug Launch

In the whirlwind months leading up to a drug launch, data is just one of many concerns on pharma companies’ minds. But even before a new treatment gets into the hands of patients, companies with the right kind of advanced analytics can leverage data to develop strategy and tactics grounded in insights about prescribers, payers, and consumers. They can also anticipate challenges and change course when the market shifts in unexpected ways.

In 2019, Ironshore Pharmaceuticals set out to debut their first product, a novel ADHD medication, into a famously crowded marketplace. Understanding that comprehensive and actionable data is key to a successful launch, Ironshore partnered with analytics firm Verix to build a data platform that would help Ironshore craft strategy and make agile decisions in the pivotal early launch stages.

The Product/Market

JORNAY PM is a first-of-its-kind oral ADHD medication for children six years and older. Using Ironshore’s proprietary DELEXIS drug delivery technology, JORNAY PM is a stimulant taken in the evening that provides therapeutic benefits beginning in the morning and continuing throughout the day. The medication’s delayed-release properties address a common challenge for parents whose children have ADHD: Symptom flare-ups in the early morning when families are preparing for the day ahead.

The first ADHD drug, Ritalin, was introduced more than 60 years ago. The market today for ADHD treatments is remarkably competitive. JORNAY PM faced dozens of competitors, many of them generic.

The Problem

As the launch date neared, Ironshore was determined to harness historical data so that they could draw from the experiences of competitors to shape their commercialization strategy for JORNAY PM. However, it was taking longer than expected for the company to build its in-house data warehouse. The sheer volume and complexity of data on ADHD products proved daunting given that the disease area comprises a broad range of treatments with different molecules, mechanisms of action, titrations, patient populations, and prescriber types (e.g., psychiatrists, primary care physicians, pediatricians). New medicines launching in a complex, competitive market often fall below expectations due to the absence of data-informed decisions. Furthermore, how can a launch brand maximize their investment when the utilization rate for business intelligence tools across the pharma industry is estimated to be about 20% by Gartner? With this challenge in mind, Ironshore needed to find a way to transform mass quantities of data into relevant, actionable insights—and fast.

The Solution

After exploring a number of potential partners, Ironshore settled on our team at Verix, a data analytics firm with deep expertise in the life sciences industry. The clock was ticking, and the possibility loomed that Ironshore’s commercial team would not have the insights they needed to prepare for launch. We built a platform for Ironshore in under two months by employing pre-packaged analytic applications and a staged approach. Before Ironshore’s central data warehouse became functional, we created an independent data mart with raw data from a dozen different sources. This allowed for clear data visualization even before the first scripts for JORNAY PM were written. Ironshore needed employees in different areas of their company to be able to access data they could understand and that could improve performance.

“With the large sales team that we had and the short time we had to onboard and train them, understanding the data was a challenge,” said Amin Torabkhani, Director of Sales Operations and Analytics at Ironshore.

Ironshore wanted to equip sales reps with the most up-to-date and relevant information. Verix’s Limelight platform was able to provide reps with insights that allowed them to build strong relationships with targets and pivot swiftly according to changes in the prescriber and payer landscapes. Because JORNAY PM was a novel product launching into a hyper-competitive market, Ironshore understood that they would inevitably have to shift strategy and tactics.

Limelight empowered sales reps to identify where those shifts could be made and go deeper with certain prescriber segments. Specifically, sales reps leveraged insights to support prospecting and pre-call planning. They were able to see physician molecule and release-type preferences down to recent switch behavior between brands. From a payer perspective, sales reps could adjust messaging based on the payers and plans used by physician’s patients. This helped with determining which physicians to target and which messages would best resonate.

The Result

Together, Ironshore and Verix overcame the challenges of data deficiency and a saturated ADHD marketplace and enhanced alignment between sales, marketing, and managed markets. Through the implementation of a BI solution, Ironshore also significantly cut down on time spent manually analyzing data. “During my initial assessment of BI tools in the space, I was expecting to get access to a beta environment in four to six months,” said Torabkhani. “Verix’s pre-built applications and data ingestion accelerator reduced this down to eight weeks to be up and running, which provided us with a fully functional system from the first day of our launch.”

Leading up to and at launch, the Ironshore team’s goal was to leverage historical data analytics to gain competitive insights and ultimately understand how they should position JORNAY PM, according to product switch dynamics and physician treatment preferences. As the team moved beyond launch, they shifted into deeper insights around market access, payer landscape, and sales effectiveness.

With over a 95% utilization rate, collaboration across business units has been central to the successful launch of JORNAY PM and has proved especially useful with the social distancing requirements of the ongoing pandemic. Because the platform is role-based, field reps have access to relevant insights that are simple to consume and make decisions on but can also dive deeper into analysis should the rep be more data driven. With streamlined communication comes more effective collaboration, which in turn leads to better problem-solving.

New medicines launching in a complex, competitive market often fall below expectations due to the absence of data-informed decisions, lack of understanding of the marketplace, and poor product positioning. “Throwing data at people is not the solution. [The solution] is making sense of data in a way that they can make decisions that are in line with our brand value proposition,” said Torabkhani. From executives to sales reps, even employees who were once data-phobic are now data evangelists.

  • Peter Harbin

    Peter Harbin is SVP of Commercial Strategy & Industry Solutions at Verix. Peter has more than 25 years of life sciences experience specializing in the areas of business intelligence, information management, and commercial operations. He currently works at Verix, a cloud-based commercial optimization technology that offers end-to-end analytic solutions specifically designed for commercial operations teams at life sciences organizations.


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