Competition: The Heat is On - Pharmaceutical Executive


Competition: The Heat is On

Pharmaceutical Executive

WILLIAM LOONEY: What else might qualify as a "game changer?"

NORMAN: Companies today are more willing to extend the scope of product partnerships; many of these deals are innovations in themselves. That more of these are being forged among big pharma companies—normally the fiercest of competitors—shows how far attitudes are changing. The rule book around traditional constraints like competitive exposure and intellectual property has been tossed out.

BERNARD: Another game changer is how we approach the traditional product launch. In the past, competitors in the same product class used to ignore new products. Now we have moved from "free launches" to "counter launches," where competitors will work to preempt and derail new rivals during the prelaunch phase, when new products are most vulnerable. Generic competitors are also changing the game, in some cases by launching copycat products prior to patent expiration. The concept of brands competing routinely with generics is a new trend, and most innovator companies need to develop different strategies and skills to prepare for this intense street fight.

WILLIAM LOONEY: Does the ability to manage costs qualify as a game changer?

DALY: To a degree, but what you are really talking about here is just good management. The larger issue is retaining talent. One rarely acknowledged competition challenge is a disappearance of people who know how to launch products; people who understand the commercial model. To the extent these people are exiting this industry and not being replaced, we are in trouble.

BERNARD: A company that can change its cost structure in a fundamental way will derive a significant competitive advantage. Teva developed its patented drug Copaxone for multiple sclerosis at roughly a fifth of what it would have cost a big pharma firm.

PASCHELES: Cost management is also emerging as a compensating factor to help companies realize their revenue targets for new medicines. We have to learn to do more with less. In addition, we know that the second or third molecule on the market is having a tougher time on uptake; payers insist on proof of differentiation from the leader. If you don't provide it, the product can end up dead in the water.

WILLIAM LOONEY: How do you define and attract the customer when competitive forces are so diverse and changeable? Is a strong external stakeholder orientation the best way to keep pace?

SNYDERMAN: Industry has not thought broadly enough as to who the real stakeholders are in pharmaceuticals. There is the physician and the pharmacist and, to some degree, the patient. The payer is becoming more prominent, and it is very important to consider the many sources of influence on them too. Those sources are increasing exponentially, due to improvements in the speed, scope, and accessibility of information. Whoever can capture all these strands and form a coherent picture of what drives value will blow out the competition.

SHARMA: Industry spends much time and money in trying to promote to physicians but still we know next to nothing on the interaction that a physician has with his patients. If we understood more about that contact, it would help frame the message around how our products generate value. And the truth is that many partnerships are one-sided, with most of the advantage to our partner. Success will come for those who can figure how to improve that balance as these deals are implemented. Execution is still the rocket science of this industry.

COLES: Patients are also at the center of the trend toward consumerism in healthcare, which is being driven by healthcare technology and information, the arrival of specialty biologics, and personalized medicine. Each of these factors makes it possible to initiate a dialogue that is individually relevant around a person's specific disease.

WILLIAM LOONEY: Which companies or segments of the market do you consider to be among the best competitors? What makes them stand out?

COLES: The orphan drug companies are strong competitors because they carry intimate knowledge of both the customer and patient base. The barriers that regulations place on access to the customer are addressable; they know who their patients are, and how to reach them.

Ipsos Health Survey
PASCHELES: Leading competitors are those who focus on solutions in which the pill may be only one of many elements. Again, one can look for precedents in other industries. Apple came up with the iPod technology and then built a market for the technology with iTunes. This has led to a much closer ongoing relationship to the customer, and in a very different way than simply selling a desktop system. Our industry can learn from that precedent.

BERNARD: Teva is a tough competitor. They have the strategic discipline, market aggressiveness, and innovative approaches to challenge any brand or company. It now fills one of every six prescriptions written in the US.

WILLIAM LOONEY: Is trust and reputation a way to be a stronger competitor?

DALY: This is a delicate balancing act and we must do all that we can to maintain and build the trust we have established. It is important but it carries some risk. Bringing stakeholders into discussions on commercial development is a key way to foster more societal trust, but this can have a negative impact on the science by shutting off promising leads, because right now "society" isn't convinced they have value. We are an industry built around a commitment to evidence and research, yet in reaching out to new stakeholders we risk becoming unfocused and providing elegant answers to irrelevant questions.


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