Product Launches: The Couch and the Airline Seat - Pharmaceutical Executive


Product Launches: The Couch and the Airline Seat
In the old days, pills were products. Today, marketers need to treat them as time-sensitive opportunities. If you don't, you'll be left at the gate.

Successful Product Manager's Handbook

Launch Fundamentals To achieve faster global launches, companies need to focus on a few key issues.

Simultaneous global launches and global brands. Pressed with ever shorter exclusivity periods and declining time to peak sales, companies are being forced to abandon the old strategy of launching a drug first in the United States, then Europe, Japan, and so on. While the role of the US market has increased in importance—in 1990, the top five European pharma markets together were the same size as the US market, by 2003 they were 37 percent its size—Europe still provides incremental margins for global products. Simultaneous product launches across the globe maximize the value of the exclusivity window and drive synergies in planning, marketing, and distribution. When Eli Lilly launched Zyprexa (olanzapine) in 1997 it managed to submit in the United States and the EU on the same day and launch in 20 countries in the first 12 months of FDA approval. Today Wyeth and others are targeting some 30 countries for a simultaneous submission of their multinational drug applications.

Empowered by the internet, consumers are now aware not only of drugs available in their own country, but those available outside. There's been a recent surge in consumers who read about foreign treatments, purchase and import their own medication, and get access to products unavailable in their markets through participation in clinical trials or grey markets. As consumers and physicians go "global," it becomes increasingly important to develop truly global brands and drive consistent brand messaging.

Early and appropriate planning and integration of key opinion leaders. On average, pharma companies spend as much on marketing in the three years preceding a launch as they do during the first year post-launch. One-fifth of pre-launch spending goes to develop and integrate key opinion leaders (KOLs). To ensure that funds are spent effectively, companies need to focus on early preparation. They should establish an appropriate communications strategy, develop relationships with KOLs who will shape the market, align resources globally, and ensure target countries have resources devoted to the launch.

Executive Management Recommendations
KOLs can play a significant role in preparing the market for the launch. When Parke-Davis and Pfizer launched Lipitor (atorvastatin), they built relationships with important spokespeople and key physician communities shortly before the drug's launch. By combining their efforts, the companies managed to reach out to more than 85,000 physicians before the drug hit the market.

Pharmacoeconomics. It is becoming increasingly important to develop drugs that improve outcomes and demonstrate value. The price-versus-value discussion that began in Australia in 1992, and has been hotly debated in European countries where pharma companies are facing increasingly cost-conscious government healthcare systems (e.g., NICE in the UK since the late 1990s), is making inroads in the United States. Including health economic endpoints in Phase III trials presents a stronger package supporting a product's launch.

Affiliate scorecards. The ability to drive growth depends on having appropriate and effective incentives for affiliate general managers. When incentives are not aligned with marketing and sales goals, the disconnect will often lead to lost sales—an empty seat in our analogy. Consider the case of a manufacturer of an injectable drug. As part of its global product strategy the company gave away reusable "pens" that dispensed the drug, from a disposable cartridge held within. The logic was the pens would be distributed for free but would drive sales of replacement cartridges and create brand awareness by virtue of the logo printed on the side of each pen. What actually happened was general managers in several regions realized that the sales boost created by the pens would not be realized for one to two years and opted for alternative sales techniques with more immediate results. The result? Lower long-term sales.

The company may have achieved better results if it had included the affiliate marketing directors in the development of the global product strategy to begin with. Aligning the general managers on the strategy and incenting them on the product objectives would have helped. In some cases, it may even be appropriate to include early local launch spend in the global product team budget and relieve affiliates of current P&L considerations.


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