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Perspectives on Drug Launch Marketing

Posted by Matt Breese on Nov 8, 2016

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Emerging pharma companies and enterprise companies launching a new product in a class have a challenging task. It can take 18 to 24 months to develop a marketing framework that ensures awareness and engagement with a brand. New product launch is a critical phase for driving adoption and growth.

Drug Launch Challenges


Today there is i
ncreased competition and shortened windows of opportunity for drug launches. For example, prescribers limit access to pharma reps and often dodge sales visits.

As pharma product launches become more frequent and smaller, launching new products becomes more challenging. According to McKinsey & Company, “About two-thirds of new drugs fail to meet pre-launch consensus sales expectations for their first year on the market.”

Prior to launch, a marketing and sales strategy must be developed and supported by key personnel. Common reasons for a failed launch include inadequate planning, lack of operational support, and improper product pricing. A successful launch requires a significant amount of financial resources, a trained sales team, creative brand positioning and reliable market access to data and analytics.

Dr. Andree Bates in Eye for Pharma recommends using analytic models to support pre-launch efforts, “Throughout the multiple phases of pre-launch planning, using sophisticated analytics can help you answer key questions, supporting your process and removing the dangerous uncertainty that can doom your product.”

Marketing First in Class Products

Many pharma companies compete for early market entry, believing this will to a larger market share later in the product lifecycle. However, the significance of being first-to-market varies based on the level of competition in the class, the route of administration and the lead time. If a pharmaceutical company has prior experience, it will have “almost twice the first-to-market advantage than companies with no experience, reports McKinsey & Company. To promote first in class drugs, marketers must understand the market needs and develop deep consumer insights.

Launching into a Competitive Market

According to McKinsey & Company, “more than half of upcoming launches are of moderately differentiated products in well-established disease areas.” When launching into a competitive market, pharma companies must use innovative marketing strategies.

To stand out from the competition, pharma marketers should use differentiated positioning statements, pricing and creative promotions.

Reaching HCPs

Connecting with HCPs requires outreach across multiple digital and physical channels. Pharma companies must identify their target population among clinicians. To reach HCPs, marketers develop educational materials and provide content that offers real value, based on reliable access data. Nurturing relationships with HCPs requires consistent follow-ups to provide new information and up-to-date content.

By aligning with key opinion leaders (KOLs), pharma marketers can better reach clinicians, who often look to KOLs for the main takeaways on complex healthcare topics. KOL support can elevate the credibility of brand messaging.

PM 360 provides a 4 step guide to engaging with HCPs:

  1. Gauge awareness and heighten understanding
  2. Evaluate the responses from HCPS
  3. Identify target physicians and provide value
  4. Use multiple touch points to create action

Creating Payer Awareness

While it's eay to put most of the launch focus on prescribers and patients, it’s a mistake to overlook gaining the attention of payers during contracting. Today payers give attention to companies open to evidence-based, value-driven pricing arrangements and those with solid messaging covering clinical and economic impact. Tactical recommendations for gaining payer awareness include creating cost-effectiveness models and value dossiers.  

Drug launch marketing is a complex area in which all constituents including prescribers, payers, and patients, must be addressed. Creative strategy coupled with market knowledge and analytics are the keys to achieving success with new products. 


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Topics: Market Access, Branding & Marketing