Launch on a Budget - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Launch on a Budget
Drugs don't need blockbuster budgets to achieve blockbuster status. In fact, companies may want to reconsider the big dollars being spent on me-too launches.


Successful Product Manager's Handbook


So, what was the issue? Clinical enthusiasm masked the developer's lack of marketing experience. Head-to-head competition with top pharma companies added to the internal limitations: Brand 1's established competitors had presence in the therapeutic area, access to large marketing budgets, and sizeable, veteran sales forces.

The Strategy: The team leveraged Brand 1's clinical buzz to gain advantage over competitors; the company bet the drug's above-average safety profile, fewer side effects, and more convenient dosing would secure physician and patient loyalties swiftly. Brand 1's team knew it had to push aggressively through a saturated playing field, so market-research projects dominated late Phase III.

And it worked—the market-research department received $1.3 million of the total $2.25 million spent during this period. The money was used to develop key messages and collect competitive intelligence in preparation for market entry (see "Market Research in Phase III," below).


Brand 1 Ramps Up Marketing
But getting through the gates was only half the battle. Because it was a first-in-class drug, Brand 1 needed human support to convince doubters it was better than competitors.

The team knew it had to target physicians and used thought leaders, medical education, and journals to expand market reach and develop doctor relationships. Doctors are the best PR tools and Brand 1's company knew informing healthcare providers was a direct and efficient means to get the word out.

There was just one problem—the company didn't have key opinion leaders (KOLs) beyond clinical development, so the team formed a new network of KOLs for promotion and commercial growth. Brand team leaders depended heavily upon the input of these opinion leaders to help push the product towards its full potential.


Brand 2 Makes a Push
The Result: In the months between FDA submission and launch, the brand spent more than half-a-million dollars laying the groundwork for its thought-leader program; that figure jumped to $1.6 million in its first year on the market. And the spending continued. The company created an advertising campaign to emphasize the product's advantages and put its weight behind the drug's superior safety profile.

After FDA submission, advertising spend increased to $2.5 million before jumping an additional $3 million in the drug's first year (see "Brand 1 Ramps Up Marketing," left).

The results so far are mixed, but promising. Brand 1 leapt into the marketplace and immediately grabbed market share from established competitors because the company knew the superior safety profile was its golden egg. The drug, however, still hasn't reached blockbuster status because the brand's revenues currently fuel marketing spend. But the company wouldn't have been able to secure a place in the industry had it not put most of its budget into market-research products.

The ability to identify that need was the developer's greatest triumph, and the brand team's ability to learn from its successes and mistakes will determine the future of Brand 1.

Brand 2: A Late Start and Limited Revenues

A me-too drug, Brand 2 introduced clinical improvements, but had more modest goals than Brand 1: peak annual global sales of $100 to $200 million, mostly on the strength of US prescriptions.


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Source: Successful Product Manager's Handbook,
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