Six weeks to a copromotion

January 1, 1997
Pharmaceutical Representative

Not long after the Olympic athletes took their medals home from Atlanta last summer, one area pharmaceutical company won another kind of competition.

Not long after the Olympic athletes took their medals home from Atlanta last summer, one area pharmaceutical company won another kind of competition.

Last August, Solvay Pharmaceuticals beat out larger companies to win a copromotion agreement to market SmithKline Beecham's Famvir® (famciclovir) for the treatment of recurrent genital herpes. The agreement gives Solvay Pharmaceuticals exclusive direct marketing rights to Famvir in the U.S. obstetric/gynecological market, where the company has established a niche for its hormone replacement therapy and prenatal care products.

To understand how copromotion launches can progress successfully in a short period of time - in this case, six weeks - we spoke with Robert Kunis, M.B.A., associate product manager for Famvir. In his previous position, Kunis was also responsible for coordinating the training program for a copromotion with Pharmacia & Upjohn (formerly The Upjohn Co.).

Kunis answered some of the most frequently asked questions about copromotion.

Pharmaceutical Representative: How do you ensure that your sales force and your partner's sales force are properly motivated and trained during copromotion?

Kunis: Communication at all levels is the key. Both the manufacturer and partner need to clearly communicate the rationale behind the copromotion to their field sales teams. It is very important to get the representatives and field management from each company to "buy-in" as early as possible and understand the positive impact of the agreement.

For example, prior to the Famvir copromotion, the field management teams of Solvay Pharmaceuticals and Smith-Kline Beecham held teleconferences to share key information and "best practices" relevant to the copromotion. These still continue on an ongoing basis.

In addition, SmithKline Beecham's product management team and selected pharmaceutical consultants were invited to Solvay Pharmaceuticals' launch of Famvir. They actively participated in the regional training workshops by sharing their ideas, practical selling tips and expertise with our field sales representatives.

In contrast, we had a longer timeline when we launched our selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor, Luvox® (fluvoxamine maleate) Tablets with Pharmacia & Upjohn. We established multidepartment teams from both companies and held weekly teleconferences that also included the advertising, public relations and launch meeting agencies. This approach enabled us to make and communicate decisions quickly - the key to a successful copromotion launch.

How do you get reps to balance their selling priorities in a copromotion?

To balance promotional efforts and keep representatives focused, the companies need to assign an appropriate weighting to the copromoted product. The partners also need to agree on which physicians to target and the detail position for the copromoted product.

The field sales teams from both companies should also have a basic understanding of the agreement's terms, such as the duration of the copromotion and performance measures. Bonus incentives and contests can be very effective for generating excitement and motivation around the new product.

The partner's other product management teams should also receive an overview on the copromotion. This will help all the product groups plan and minimize the potential to overload the representatives during the initial roll-out of the copromoted product.

How long does it take to develop a training program for a copromotion?

Developing the field training program and launch meeting workshops for Luvox took approximately three months. The training departments from both companies worked closely to ensure that they disseminated the training materials to the field sales teams in a timely manner.

For Famvir, Solvay only had six weeks to train the entire field sales team and launch the product. This launch truly exemplified what can be accomplished through the spirit of teamwork and cooperation between two companies.

Do you bring both sales forces together for training? If so, how does it work?

If the copromoted product is new to the market, it is best to bring both the manufacturer's and partner's sales forces together at some point, such as at a national launch meeting. The energy, enthusiasm and idea-sharing between the companies at these meetings are critical ingredients of a successful copromotion.

If the copromoted product is not new to the market, the partner should definitely involve representatives from the manufacturer's training, marketing, medical services and sales departments. For example, the national launch meeting for Solvay's drug Luvox included both Solvay Pharmaceuticals' and Upjohn's field sales teams. More than 1,500 representatives attended the meeting.

During training, representatives from both companies were matched geographically to encourage interaction. We assigned them to tracks that rotated through learning stations and seminars. Both companies supplied people from field sales, training, marketing and medical services who acted as facilitators for the learning stations. The involvement from this diverse group of experts enhanced both companies' sense of product ownership.

Do you find that copromotion helps you share training resources between training departments?

One of the greatest side benefits of a copromotion is the opportunity to share creative ideas and resources between the companies' training departments.

For example, when we launched Famvir, SmithKline Beecham was very generous in sharing the format design of their training programs, as well as the support materials. There was no sense in reinventing the wheel: SmithKline Beecham's training department had already created a top-notch program for Famvir.

We also exchanged ideas on training design, product workshops, promotional materials, educational programs and vendor contacts.

How are companies like yours using copromotion agreements to gain expertise in new fields? What's the benefit?

Prior to launching Luvox, our company had limited experience in the central nervous system market.

To prepare the field sales team to launch Luvox and to enhance the representatives' understanding and confidence level with psychiatrists, Solvay formed a strategic alliance with Pharmacia & Upjohn Inc. to copromote Xanax® (alprazolam) to targeted physicians, especially psychiatrists. This arrangement greatly helped our field team build a presence in the psychiatrist offices, as well as learn the nuances of calling on this specialized group of physicians.

And, depending on the pharmaceutical company's current product line, a copromoted product can be very valuable to expand and strengthen a company's therapeutic franchise.

For example, our company will leverage Famvir to enhance its value to obstetrician/gynecologists, as well as to obtain more quality time in front of these specialists.

A copromoted product can also be a great energizer for sales representatives, especially when they're confronted with the usual question from physicians: "So what do you have that's new?" PR