A lot is riding on a successful drug or device launch – possibly billions of dollars in R&D investment, years of income under a patent, further development of new doses and delivery formats – and life science companies are eager for their work to pay off. This article will examine top tips for a successful pharmaceutical new product launch and how pharmaceutical and medical device companies can strive for launch excellence.
What is a launch in the pharmaceutical industry?
A pharmaceutical product launch is both the culmination of years of work and a new beginning. Drug and device launches can usher in commercialization and development opportunities, but a successful launch is a daunting task that requires a high degree of cross-functional coordination and accuracy. Launches are subject to several complications, including regulatory requirements, patent cliffs, increasing R&D costs, shrinking sales teams, and a complex commercialization stage.
What can derail a product launch?
Launch is a complex process, but some common issues typically interfere with a successful launch:
- Regulatory intervention
- Overly aggressive sales targets
While some of these events are unforeseen, most can be avoided with a strong product launch strategy. The best way to combat so-called launch disasters is with adequate preparation, attention to detail, and pre-launch diligence built into every launch strategy.
What stakeholders are involved in a product launch in pharma?
Assembling a cross-functional team is the first of many steps in any successful product launch. The functional areas should include the following:
- Regulatory – works with the Food and Drug Administration to decide and finalize the product labeling
- Marketing – develops the messaging for the product
- Market access – works to ensure the product is covered under payers’ formulary plans
- Commercial operations – collects and synthesizes data to inform sales, marketing, and other decisions as the product is in market
- Clinical R&D – gather comments and feedback from important stakeholders and examine them during the right stage in the process
- Medical affairs – works with key opinion leaders, healthcare professionals, congresses, and advocacy organizations to ensure that accurate product information and labeling is communicated
- Legal – protects intellectual property
- Compliance – focuses on whether the company and product are compliant with all the regulations and pharmaceutical codes
- Supply and manufacturing – ensures there is adequate stock of a product
7 top tips for a successful pharma launch
What are the elements of a good launch strategy? Each organization will have its own “launch room” or internal launch excellence team, with processes and procedures designed to reduce mistakes and drive a successful market introduction. Here are some tips to refine launch strategies.
Conduct thorough training
Training should be at the center of every launch strategy. Now that technology – including insights management platforms – can offer teams the capability to deliver fully customized training to global cohorts, launch training can be conducted in less time and in a less costly fashion than traditional face-to-face training. By educating the launch team and other stakeholders on possible disruptions and how to respond to potentially negative events, organizations can do their best to ensure a more coordinated launch effort.
Perform adequate testing
Nobody accurately predicts how the market will react to a drug or device launch. But message testing among physicians and patients can provide helpful information that may inform launch strategies. For example, if a commercial team wants to understand whether or not their physician-targeted advertising for a new drug delivery format will be effective, they can share ad prototypes with a panel of HCPs ahead of launch. Within an insights management platform, for example, the commercial team could ensure they are conducting message testing in a compliant fashion, understand the HCPs’ reactions to the test, and even understand positive or negative sentiment in the responses through the application of natural language processing rather than hours of tedious analysis.
Engage in clear communication
Before, during and after the launch, field reps should get a clear communication cadence that educates, motivates, and sustains a commitment to the product. By establishing a plan for pre- and post-launch communication, stakeholders will have access to the same information and a better understanding of the product’s goals. Clear, consistent messaging creates more confident ambassadors for a new product.
Plan impactful launch events, with a virtual twist
Although the global pandemic put a temporary damper on large-scale, in-person launch events, many companies have already resumed them. Another option – one that avoids last-minute disruption and can provide an additional opportunity to build relationships and obtain insight from field reps – is to develop a launch-focused online resource center that presents all the launch materials and content, ensuring attendees have an always-on reference. Whether they attend in person or not, sales reps will feel prepared to hit the ground running.
Include patients at all stages
Patients can offer key information about how they respond to messaging and how their experience of being diagnosed with, or living with, a specific condition. It’s important to get this information directly from patients – patient input that is filtered through a doctor’s experience is less impactful, and ultimately less useful. Here again, insights management technology can make it easier for product developers to engage with patients not only before launch, but once a product is in market.
…And don’t forget physicians
Physicians are also consumers of pharmaceutical and medical device products in that they facilitate their eventual use, and can be influential in their peer communities. To understand how physicians will respond to a product, life science teams can simply ask – and these days, those conversations are most easily had in a virtual venue.
Problems arise when there’s a discrepancy in what physicians think about a disease or a therapeutic area on the one hand, and what pharma companies think that physicians think. – BlueNovius
Engage with KOLs
These influencers are critical as you take a product to market. Experts recommend using virtual engagement – including produced web events – to create interactive opportunities for KOLs to share their opinions about different diseases, therapeutic areas, and new products.
Insights management technology for launch excellence
If a launch plan lacks structure, it runs the risk of going off track. With multiple teams involved, this risk is even greater without a central point of coordination. An insights management platform can serve as a single source of truth for many phases of product development, including elements of a successful launch.
Rather than multiple streams of emails, documents, and other disparate forms of communication, some life science organizations use the capabilities of an insights management platform to streamline and organize launch plans. This might take the form of an online resource center to eliminate concerns about version control, social media listening before, during, and after a product launch to monitor conversations on public forums, asynchronous discussions for message testing or other forms of insight gathering, and collating and analyzing incoming observations and notes from field teams.
Kindle Communications. Tips to successfully launch a pharma product. https://www.kindlecommunications.com/blog/tips-to-successfully-launch-a-pharma-product/
BlueNovius. Tips for Successful Product Launch in Pharma. https://www.bluenovius.com/healthcare-marketing/product-launch/
PharmExec. 5 Keys to a Successful Drug Launch. https://www.pharmexec.com/view/5-keys-to-a-successful-drug-launch
Attrivity. Why a lack of attention to detail is killing pharma launches. https://blog.atrivity.com/lack-of-detail-killing-pharma-launches#:~:text=Most%20product%20launch%20disasters%20are,been%20prevented%20with%20better%20planning.
Deloitte. Key factors to improve drug launches. https://www2.deloitte.com/us/en/insights/industry/life-sciences/successful-drug-launch-strategy.html