Lessons learned from accelerated product launches
An industry adage asserts that you only have one chance to launch successfully. With the competitive landscape always in flux, biopharma brands already face serious challenges to the task. Then there’s the prospect of an accelerated launch when a one-year launch date gets cut in half. You are left with the twin realities: you can get to market and start earning sooner, but you don’t really have time to do it in the most judicious way. Here are some lessons learned that help mitigate some of the risks.
Assess the stakes
First, organize the challenges with an eye toward deriving a formula of sorts:
• Have you arrived at a strategy that will differentiate and create maximum impact?
• Is your reimbursement path clear to take off?
• Do you have your HUB services ready to support the brand?
• Are your personal and non-personal selling assets in place?
Depending on the answers to these questions, you must conduct scenario planning that assigns values to each piece of the puzzle. For example, ensuring that your brand is reimbursable and well-placed on formularies is a 10 out of 10 priority, as this will significantly blunt any promotional campaign’s effect. Meanwhile, having personal selling assets onboard and ready rates, say, a 6 out of 10, because you can have a “soft” launch and arm the field with the package insert and trial data to plug the gap for a few months and then officially launch with the full suite of launch promotional assets.
Take command of your opportunity
Rather than letting the FDA’s uncertain actions rule the day, take back control by setting your own timetable. Even with an early approval, perhaps it isn’t the right time to bring your asset to market. If the nod comes at year’s end, the target community may be too busy celebrating holidays to be captivated by a launch. Or the market landscape could determine timing. Giving a competitor even a few months out in front may delay your ability to catch up, or worse, disallow your brand to catch up at all.
Examine your special circumstance
If your brand is a first-in-class entity—versus a new entrant in an existing class—the stakes for early market uptake are much higher. Your market-shaping campaign may have to play out for longer than expected to clarify the unmet need to which your brand is the best answer. Of course, you could always elect to run both a market-shaping and branded campaign simultaneously.
If you are neck-and-neck with another breakthrough brand in your class, getting to market sooner will help you to better control the conversation. One other factor to consider presumes that your brand received an early approval because it is a life-saving therapy. In this case, the market will come to you as you reach out to engage. A market need already exists. The goodwill of releasing such a therapy—even if the timing isn’t perfect—will earn your brand a special esteem.
The immediate temptation to launch early on the FDA’s timetable is naturally driven by the extra earnings potential of getting into the market as soon as possible. If, on the other hand, you wait and launch when you are more prepared to do it right, your return on investment might out-perform the income that a rushed launch affords you. In this case, circumstances may compel you to conduct a re-launch, which is not only expensive, but also potentially confusing to your customers.
Fortunately, you can rest assured that you are not the only brand that has ever faced an early launch. The industry is replete with examples of good and bad early launches so you can benchmark against them to inform your own actions. Choose wisely.