Pharmaceutical product launches cost pharma companies billions each year.
But those investments are still a gamble, somewhat. Only 64 percent of these product launches meet expectations in their first year, according to Jeff Ford and fellow authors at Deloitte. Thirty-six percent, or more than one in three, miss the mark in Year 1, and it tends to be a downward trend from there.
With so much at stake, coordinating efforts throughout the launch process is a must. Here’s how the right digital tools can help you bring your brand, access marketing, and account field teams together to boost launch success.
Key Players in a Product Launch
Product launches require the skills of several pharma company teams. To launch a new rare disease therapy, these teams must also consider the perspectives of several other groups both inside and outside the company.
Brand teams focus on both the branding of the product to be launched and how that product fits within the company’s overall brand and reputation.
Pharmaceutical companies that focus on brand messaging, including post-launch information and data, tend to outperform companies that lapse in these areas, write Rafael Natanek, Christoph Schlegel, Michael Retterath and George Eliades at Bain & Company. Those that also consider the customers’ experiences gain an added boost.
Sales and marketing play a key role in product launches. Often, these teams may take point during the launch process.
When marketing and sales teams don’t adequately understand the access opportunities and challenges available, they miss chances to improve launch performance. Having a robust source of information about access challenges is necessary for these teams.
Account Field Teams
Field teams offer an essential source of connection and information. Field professionals are the ones speaking directly to distributors, pharmacists, providers, payers and patients. Yet the perspective of account field teams often gets overlooked — to the detriment of successful pharmaceutical product launches.
“Because field planning and customer engagement processes tend to be conducted independently with different sources and guidance, it can be challenging to keep up with how customers want to engage with pharma reps across various channels,” write Mike Powers and Thomas Nacher at management consulting and technology firm ZS Associates.
Failing to account for these perspectives can spell the difference between a successful product launch and one that underperforms or outright fails.
The use of digital platforms and other tools currently drive greater collaboration among pharmaceutical company teams. “With these silos breaking down, biopharmas will have the opportunity to drive a more coordinated approach to HCP engagement using shared data and unified systems, while still maintaining compliance,” says Paul Shawah, senior vice president of commercial strategy at cloud-based software provider Veeva Systems.
Why Coordination Is Necessary
“A product launch is a company’s coordinated effort to bring new or updated products to market,” writes Nikhil Gangaraju, director of product marketing at digital analytics platform Amplitude. By definition, a successful product launch demands coordination among teams whose efforts contribute to the launch or whose work will be affected by the launch.
Coordinating the teams involved in a product launch allows these teams to agree on a narrative. The narrative, in turn, helps patients, providers and payers understand how the new product fits into the healthcare context.
Deloitte’s Brian Corvino, Natasha Elsner, Madhushree Wagh and John Jaeger recommend that pharmaceutical launch teams construct their narratives within one of five archetypes to help audiences quickly understand the new treatment. These archetype categories include vaccines, general medicine, high-volume specialty drugs, oncology, and rare disease therapies.
In addition, the authors recommend that pharma teams begin their launch preparations early in the development process. Gathering information about market access, examining patient and provider perspectives, communicating with stakeholders, and fostering collaboration among teams can all boost the chances of launch success.
Vynamic’s Gemma Pfister recommends that medical affairs teams lead coordination efforts. She provides several examples of steps MA teams can take to coordinate interested parties around product launches, including investment in engaging various stakeholders.
Gathering information and understanding the perspective of various stakeholder groups is fundamental to a successful pharma product launch. “It is all too easy to wrongly assume that new stakeholder groups will need and value the same type of engagement with pharma as traditional stakeholder groups,” Pfister writes.
Gangaraju recommends that product launch teams keep a few best practices in mind when coordinating their efforts toward launch:
- Understand customers’ perspective and experience. This element is particularly important for pharmaceutical companies launching rare disease treatments, whose customer audience includes not only patients but also providers, payers and pharmacies.
- Use data-driven insights to build strategies. Data from all stakeholder groups, as well as ongoing feedback beginning well before the launch date, can provide needed context to cooperating teams. This context helps teams seize opportunities and avoid costly mistakes.
- Get everyone on the same page. Gangaraju recommends using launch checklists. A digital environment in which participants can contribute relevant information, view analytics and timelines, and communicate effectively can help as well.
From idea conception to individual dose, rare disease therapies are a team effort. Coordinating these teams provides transparency, offers a clearer view of opportunities and obstacles, and boosts the chance of a successful product launch.
Boost Product Launch Coordination With Digital Tools
Specialty therapies for rare diseases don’t succeed with the same launch treatment as more broadly-applicable drugs. Rare disease therapies have enormous potential to treat the diseases they target and to enhance quality of life for patients who live with these conditions.
Encouraging adoption of a new rare disease therapy requires pharma teams to navigate a number of challenges, write consultants Joey Miller, John Reddan, Haripriya Jain and Bruce Phelan at Blue Fin Group. These include:
- Configuring a complicated supply chain to optimize product delivery.
- Managing distribution and dispensing channels and relationships.
- Navigating payers’ restrictions, such as utilization management controls.
- Educating patients and providers on why the new therapy is helpful and how to access and use it.
The high rate of pharmaceutical launch failures can be attributed in part to the failure to acknowledge the roles of distributors, pharmacists, payers, providers and patients in the process. “We still observe launch strategies that place too much emphasis on Sales and Marketing at the expense of other operational factors which may have greater importance in successful specialty product commercialization,” write Miller et al.
A digital platform that integrates these operational factors can turn the tide. These tools collect supply chain, distribution, dispensing, payer, provider and patient information in one interactive environment. In so doing, they provide sales and marketing teams with requisite information. They allow brand, access marketing and account field teams to work with each other, with stakeholders, and with other internal teams like medical affairs to minimize the risk of launch failure.
In a pharmaceutical product launch, the stakes are high — and so is the risk of failure. The right digital tools can help coordinate your brand, access, marketing and account field teams. With all participants on the same page, a pharmaceutical launch receives better support and sees higher odds of succeeding.
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