Special Report: Platform Drugs—Marketing Your Opportunities - Pharmaceutical Executive


Special Report: Platform Drugs—Marketing Your Opportunities

Pharmaceutical Executive

Tracking Market Penetration: The Case of Xeloda

Given that they are often making treatment decisions for patients in life-threatening situations, oncologists have traditionally been among the most experimental physicians when utilizing treatment alternatives. The oncology market is currently the most competitive category in the industry, and the most successful cancer drugs, such as Genentech's Avastin and Sanofi's Taxotere (docetaxel), are typically approved to treat more than one tumor type. Roche's Xeloda (capecitabine) is approved to treat both metastatic colorectal and breast cancer—two distinctly different markets that share the same specialist. Once again, to fully leverage the overall market opportunity for Xeloda, Roche's brand team needs an objective analysis of both the promotional investment in each indication and the physician response to that investment. In the first quarter of this year, approximately 61 percent of Xeloda's details were directed toward its colorectal cancer indication, and 26 percent for breast cancer.

A translation of this detail allocation to the marketplace reveals the competitive dynamics of these two markets (Figure 5, page 108). In March 2008, Xeloda's share of colorectal cancer-specific details to oncologists jumped from an average of 15 percent to 27 percent—evidence that Xeloda captured the majority of the attention of the oncologists vacated by Avastin as that brand shifted its focus to its new breast cancer indication.

Xeloda's share in the breast cancer market is limited to patients who are HER2 negative. Its share of HER2 negative breast cancer details also averaged about 15 percent prior to the launch of Bristol-Myers Squibb's Ixempra (ixabepilone), an HER2 competitor, in October. But with the entry of Ixempra and, more recently, Avastin, Xeloda's details share fell to approximately 11 percent in March.

Roche allocates more than double the amount of internal resources to Xeloda's colorectal indication than to its breast cancer indication. In March, Xeloda's share of details versus its competitors in the colorectal market was more than double its detail share in the breast cancer market. This confirms that their internal allocation is well aligned with the market.

Ultimately, what matters is not how resources are allocated, but how physicians respond to the resources directed toward them. Tracking Xeloda's level of penetration into the colorectal and breast cancer markets—as defined by percentage of patient visits in which the drug is used—confirms this insight (Figure 6, page 110). Xeloda's share of usage is consistent with its share of details in each tumor type—more usage and detail share in colorectal and the converse in the breast cancer market.

Of course, there's more to the Xeloda story than this. The size of the market opportunity, the brand's efficacy and safety compared to its competitors, and the amount of resources invested by the competition in launching or growing their brand are all factors Roche must consider in managing Xeloda. To do this to its fullest potential, the brand team needs to know—in as close to real time as possible—the hard facts of its business by indication. How should Roche react to the entry of Avastin into breast cancer by the oncology market leader, Genentech? (There may be no need for any reaction, as Roche already owns most of Genentech!) Should promotional resources be added, or simply shifted, from the colorectal cancer indication? Pharma's current belt-tightening climate leaves little margin for error in making such decisions.

The challenges of managing multiple indications for the same brand will increase as more and more platform drugs emerge. The brand increasingly represents an extendable franchise opportunity not unlike a consumer packaged good, and marketing teams will no longer be able to manage it as a single entity. They must be able to plan and execute marketing strategy (and measure performance) at the indication level to maximize returns from their increasingly precious brand assets.

Patrick Angelastro is a senior vice president of strategic development at ImpactRx, Inc. He can be reached at


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