How to Launch a Pharmaceutical Product

The pharmaceutical industry finds itself at crossroads: dozens of prescription drugs will lose patent protection within the next few years and new drug launches recently have been hit-or-miss.[1] Thus, it is a challenge for companies to create prescription drugs that can meet higher payer standards and that can differentiate themselves from the crowded marketplace based on areas such as safety, efficacy, and pricing.

While prescription drug launches always held an air of unpredictability, companies now seem to struggle even more with launch execution in today’s complex world when failure is more expensive than ever – developing a new drug costs about $2.6 billion now.[2] But there are ways for companies to avoid the failures of past and find new prescription drugs to satisfy a more savvy population.


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    Differentiate your product. Differentiated positioning begins on factors established in clinical trials (efficacy, unmet needs, safety and target patient population). Secondary positioning factors are less impactful, but can be useful in a crowded market.[3]
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    Define the target patient population clearly. A clear target patient population helps with first-use experiences for patients and physicians. This can produce positive word-of-mouth to support market uptake, unfortunately, it is a launch factor often missed or poorly executed.
    • Physicians often require clear identifiers to recognize the target patient. This creates a significant launch opportunity and risk factor.
    • Marketing communication and Medical Education prove helpful. Creating content, messaging, programs, disease state awareness information, and education that help physicians accurately identify the patient types that are best suited for a therapeutic area.[4]
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    Invest in launch and support. Launch leaders stress the importance of proper investment in a new launch in terms of both promotional resources and patient support. Also, patient support and supply chain resources (i.e. call centers, samples, ease-of-access and reimbursement) can help launch uptake.
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    Engage thought leaders. Thought leader engagement remains key to launch success. Relationship strategies must be tailored to a therapeutic area as one size does not fit all. Also, Medical Affairs should play a pivotal role in creating effective KOL strategies. It’s imperative that product launch teams craft engagement strategies reflecting therapeutic area needs.
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    Educate key stakeholders (physicians, patients, and payers). Educating the marketplace has risen in importance in the face of promotional and access restrictions.[5] OpenDocument Education messages need to reflect the concerns and interests of the key target audiences: physicians, patients and payers.
    • Know which physician segments to target with specific types of education. Multiple physician and specialist segments may require different product education approaches. Taking the wrong approach can set back the relationship.
    • Key stakeholder education allocations are changing with payers and patient advocacy gaining influence. Payers and patient advocacy are crucial for educating the market. A pitfall to avoid: Generalized marketing allocation models are prone to error.
    • Engage payers on value, be prepared to speak to their interests on price and reimbursement and be able to convert price-based conversations into value-based conversations, illuminating health outcomes, comparative effectiveness and most valued label attributes.
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    Demonstrate value across multiple fronts. Payers are critical to launch success.[6] The clarity and strength of a product’s value message can have as much influence as price. Comparative effectiveness and risk sharing are important considerations that will rise in importance.
    • Develop health outcomes and pharmacoeconomic models. Create a pharmacoeconomic model to show a new product’s value to public and private payers. Developing such a model must be collaborative for the payer to find it credible and insightful. Approach payers early for agreement on what the economics of a disease state are so you can accurately reflect it in the model.
    • Comparative effectiveness studies are very meaningful for payers as they provide a compelling value rationale.
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    Utilize digital media technologies to inform. Digital media technologies play a larger role in new products’ marketing campaigns. Brand Web sites, webcasts, social media and video detailing are some technologies that have been refined to offer greater impact on market entry as “brute force” becomes a thing of the past.
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    Avoid pitfalls and stumbling blocks. The complexity of a new product launch is compounded by the pitfalls dotting the market-entry landscape. The major stumbling blocks include: internal resource missteps and risks, field execution missteps and failure to address safety concerns.[7] Competitive positioning errors will be at higher risk for mistakes in the coming years.

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Categories: Finance and Business | Medication and Medical Equipment