Rethinking Product Lifecycle Management

Feb 01, 2013


Figure 1: Many pharmaceutical professionals use the standard product lifecycle management approach to make important commercial choices. Unfortunately, this limited methodology focuses primarily on the middle years of a product’s commercial life, commonly referred to as the product lifecycle, often resulting in flawed business decisions. Source: Stan Bernard, Bernard Associates, LLC, 2013
Imagine if physicians only treated people as if their lives began at age 18 and stopped treating them at age 65. This approach would essentially ignore the early development years of youth and the late maturity years of seniors, which also happen to be the peak periods of demand for the physicians' services. Sound preposterous? Not in the pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceutical marketing professionals primarily focus on the middle years of a product's commercial life, commonly referred to as the "product lifecycle," which begins with regulatory approval and ends with expiration of the patent. The conventional practice is to apply a product lifecycle management (LCM) strategy that entails making critical investments corresponding to four commercial stages of a product's lifecycle: introduction; growth; maturity; and decline (Figure 1).


Figure 2: Drug Life Optimization enables pharmaceutical professionals to view the entire life—not just the lifecycle— of a product and to make more appropriate, timely, and strategic decisions to maximize cumulative, lifetime sales, represented as the area under the curve in green. Source: Stan Bernard, Bernard Associates, LLC, 2013
While LCM is adaptable to many types of manufactured products, it is not applicable to drugs. Drugs are unique products which have not one lifecycle but rather three different life periods: an extensive early development period; a highly competitive mid-life period; and a significant late post-patent period. These three periods together constitute the real life of a drug, running from bench to bedside (Figure 2). Unlike most products, drugs have a lengthy, closely regulated, and complex developmental pre-marketing phase usually lasting a decade or longer. During this period of scale up toward commercialization, drugs are influenced by an extremely diverse group of customers and stakeholders, each of which can dramatically alter the conditions of access, utilization, pricing, and sales. And unlike most other products, pharmaceuticals are treated as a public good, usually financed by governments or third-party entities. This is reinforced by global, regional, and national intellectual property laws which frequently determine the timing and impact of generic competition in the product's later years.

Consequently, applying the limited LCM approach to pharmaceutical products can lead to flawed assumptions, unrealistic strategies, and value-destroying execution. Pharmaceutical professionals are advised instead to consider the concept of Drug Life Optimization (DLO), which enables pharmaceutical professionals to view the entire life—not just the lifecycle—of a product in order to make more appropriate, timely, and strategic decisions through each of a product's three life periods. DLO is an all-encompassing business approach to manage the complete set of product information, processes, and resources in order to maximize the longest, full life potential of a drug.