In contrast, today's product launches are conducted more like election campaigns. Years before launch, companies position their drug candidates and lobby numerous influential constituencies. Early in the campaign, rival companies with incumbent marketed drugs pre-position and attack the new challenger seeking to steal their votes. Promising drug candidates are scrutinized by analysts and media professionals, who monitor and report each trial and tribulation. The drug election is won or lost soon after launch as patients go to pharmacies to cast their votes, heavily influenced by physicians, payers, and other constituencies.
In fact, an IMS study of 79 launch products and other analyses indicate that the ultimate success of a chronic care product launch is determined within the first 10 to 12 weeks after launch. Consequently, companies can no longer wait to battle during the benchmark "launch year," but must seek to win the 'pre-launch years." This paradigm shift—from selection to election of drugs—has fundamentally changed the timetable for product launches. Companies and professionals who grasp this shift and approach product launches like elections are demonstrating dramatic competitive advantages.
Similar factors have shaped the most recent US presidential election campaigns. Regardless of one's political views, these campaigns provide valuable lessons for effectively launching—or counterlaunching against—pharmaceutical products.