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Maximize launch success by blending creativity with technology

23 Sep 2023
A successful launch is often considered a predictor of the long-term commercial success of a new product, so it is not surprising that pharma companies pull out all the stops in terms of investment and resources to support a new launch. Data, however, shows that only 58% of companies actually meet their two-year targets, and many companies have to lower their launch expectations.
In order to understand why launches fail to meet expectations, we interviewed 15 commercial and medical leaders and found that there were 5 key reasons launches struggle.
Payer activation and reimbursement challenges
Regulatory roadblocks and competitive dynamics
Inadequate market adoption by healthcare professionals
Field force effectiveness and efficiency challenges
Engagement and adoption issues
How can we better understand why launches fail to reach expectations, and what steps can industry leaders take to mitigate those challenges?
At the Indegene Digital Summit, industry experts Mark Hagler (Sun Pharmaceuticals) and Brian Heath (Amgen) delved into this topic in detail and shared their insights on planning a successful launch, managing expectations, and the role that technology plays in driving success.
The key highlights of their conversation are summarized below.
Rethinking unreasonable expectations
While each of the above reasons are factors, one of the main reasons why product launches fail to meet expectations may be because the expectations are set too high. This is often because companies are eager to launch their new product and do not have all the information, they need to make an accurate forecast. There is a tension between creating expectations and driving growth.
There are several factors that can contribute to inaccurate forecasts, including:
Lack of familiarity with the customer and the market dynamics
Launching a product in a new therapeutic area
Rapid changes in the environment
You want your forecast to be realistic, but you also wanted to maintain ambition so that you are leading growth with an appropriate amount of investment.
– Brian Heath
In addition, the assumptions that the forecast is built on may be incomplete or even inaccurate, so any launch requires continual fine-tuning both in the pre- and post-launch phases.
Your forecasts are based on a series of assumptions, and when you get into launch what you find are some of those assumptions just don't aren't what you what you put in the forecast, and you have to adjust.
– Mark Hagler
It is important to continually refine the forecast as the launch date approaches. This will help to ensure that the expectations are realistic and that the company is prepared for any surprises.
Use analogs to inform your forecast but be aware that the environment is rapidly changing.
Get input from a variety of stakeholders, including internal teams, external experts, and customers.
Be conservative in your estimates and be prepared to adjust them as needed.
Adjusting for changes in payer activation and reimbursement
Initial forecasts will also depend heavily on market access and consequently, therapeutic area. For example, it is easier to model the market access for a protected class where reimbursement is required. However, it is more difficult to model the market access for a general medicine that is going into a heavily generic size space and does not have head-to-head data against the standard of care.
Considering rapidly evolving market dynamics, it is essential to proactively monitor real-world data and feedback so that you can be sure you are adjusting your strategy appropriately.
Recognizing that each launch has unique requirements and challenges is also essential for designing an agile approach that can adapt to changing situations. Whether it is a new competitor, the evolving regulatory landscape, or even payers making changes to their budgets, anticipating changes, and adjusting your launch strategy is key.
Launch strategies are not a one-size-fits-all approach.
– Mark Hagler
Navigating regulatory roadblocks and competitive dynamics
The regulatory environment can add complexities and nuances to a launch, and it is important to plan for these challenges in a launch strategy. Considerations are going to vary depending on whether you are launching a product on an accelerated time frame or a more traditional timeline. The competitive landscape may also shift during the regulatory approval phase, requiring that you model that in your forecast.
The reality that delays are possible in the regulatory process highlights again the need for flexibility and adjustments to your launch strategy.
Driving adoption through HCP engagement and field force effectiveness
The strategy for engaging HCPs will likely vary depending on the type of product being launched. While a field force has traditionally been a highly effective strategy, it is also the most expensive channel. Understanding HCPs and their needs is key in developing a strategy that can reach HCPs effectively. When deploying your field force, it is imperative to make sure that they have the information the HCPs need in a simple, clear, and easy to access format. It is important to remember that the commercialization process is also not a one-size-fits-all approach, but a field force can be a critical part of an effective launch.
Overcoming engagement and adoption issues
Medical affairs professionals are essential for generating evidence post launch and overcoming potential adoption hurdles. And in that post-launch phase, it is important to consider payers, providers, and patients.
Working to reduce friction in making sure patients can access therapies is key, including ensuring patients are easily able to get a treatment when it is prescribed. Your payer strategy has to be aligned with your HCP and patient strategy. Only then can you create a holistic launch strategy built for success.
Conclusion: Leveraging AI to drive launch success
Despite the risks and challenges inherent in implementing generative AI solutions, the potential for transforming launch success is real. Tying AI to a specific business problem, however, is essential. Whether it’s for training sales teams or developing content, the opportunities to drive business faster are real. Although there are still copywrite and privacy hurdles, the potential for solving problems quickly and reducing costs is great.