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What goes into a winning pharma launch strategy? Uptake’s tips for success

There are few activities more critical or significant to commercial success within the pharma industry than launching a new product, so unsurprisingly, it’s one of our service areas which is called upon most often. We have almost lost count of the number of launches Uptake has been part of, and we are so proud to have positively impacted so many patients’ lives around the world because of this crucial work with our clients. 

In this article, we break down the common key elements of a winning pharma launch strategy, and highlight the importance of continuous monitoring for ultimate success.

Importance of a Successful Pharma Product Launch Plan

Not to alarm, but a pharma launch plan really is foundational to everything – the way our products enter the market and establish identities and firm positioning has a direct correlation to their eventual market share, revenue potential, and most importantly, to patient outcomes. Because of this, we can never underestimate the significance of developing a well-crafted plan, which considers every element of our brand image, the way we will build awareness among healthcare professionals, patients, and other stakeholders. 

Insufficient market research, inadequate training, or flawed marketing strategies, and we risk limited market acceptance, slow adoption, and potentially a reduced ability to improve patients’ lives. 

“Getting it right first time is essential; a poor launch can cause irreparable reputational damage to a new drug or brand, causing long-term, costly, recovery challenges.”

What are the steps of the Pharma Launch Process?

A successful pharma launch follows a tried and tested pattern of interconnected steps, and it is imperative that there is a constant connection to learnings from the preceding stages:

  1. Research and Development: During the R&D phase, extensive research and target identification work will have been completed, requiring substantial investments in time, expertise, and finances. It is therefore incredibly important to have a rear-view mirror when developing a launch plan, to ensure none of this high-value information is overlooked. 
  2. Clinical Trials: The data gathered during this step should shape the product’s marketing strategy, enabling our brand narrative to be fully underpinned by data and the scientific narrative. 
  3. Distribution and Sales: The best plans can be devastated by poorly managed distribution channels or lack of availability in the market; Collaborating with wholesalers, pharmacies, homecare and healthcare institutions must be prioritised. 

What Factors May Hinder a Pharma Product Launch?

Several factors can hinder a pharma product launch and impede its success. These factors require careful consideration and proactive mitigation to ensure a smooth market entry.

  1. Production Costs: High production costs can impact the drug’s pricing, limiting accessibility and acceptance in the market. Balancing cost considerations while maintaining quality during the manufacturing process is crucial for long-term success.
  2. Pricing and Reimbursement: Establishing a fair and competitive price that aligns with the drug’s value proposition is critical. Additionally, navigating the complexities of reimbursement systems and gaining coverage from insurance providers are key challenges to address.

Side Effects and Safety Concerns: Adverse side effects or safety concerns can significantly hinder a new product launch. Close monitoring, patient support services and proactive communication with healthcare professionals and patients are essential to address any potential issues promptly.

Considerations for a Successful Pharma Product Launch

To ensure a successful new pharma product launch, several key factors must be considered and executed effectively. These factors contribute to creating a solid foundation and fostering positive reception in the market.

  1. Comprehensive Training: Proper training of the field teams and educating external stakeholders is vital to equip them with in-depth knowledge about the product, its unique features, and benefits. Well-informed representatives can effectively communicate with HCPs and address their queries or concerns.
  2. Importance of Data: Utilising data and market insights effectively, enables pharmaceutical companies to understand the target market, identify unmet needs, and develop personalised marketing strategies. Data-driven decision-making fosters better engagement and relevance.
  3. Patient/ HCP/ Payer Feedback: Actively seeking feedback from patients, payers and healthcare professionals or physicians helps identify potential improvements and enhance patient outcomes. Incorporating their insights throughout the launch process demonstrates a patient-centric approach and encourages access and uptake.
  4. The Right People: Bringing together the right launch team with diverse expertise is a fine art. Every role – insights / analytics, marketing teams, sales reps, clinical development, market access, health outcomes, regulatory affairs, and medical affairs – needs to be filled with individuals who possess the necessary skills and experience.
  5. Timing and Market Readiness: Launching a pharmaceutical product at the right time, when market conditions are favourable, can enhance its chances of success. Understanding market dynamics and competitor landscape as well as options for ‘fast to market’ launch strategies is essential for pinpointing the most effective timing.

“The way you rapidly identified the key issues and worked efficiently with a small cross-functional team to address them in a 6-week period was remarkable, and we have already seen a change in our growth trajectory as a result.”

General Manager

At Uptake, we believe the following are non-negotiables, and you should aim to incorporate these product launch strategy tips into your launch plan, if you would like it to be truly exceptional:

  1. It must be inspiring and engaging at an emotional level, with a narrative that is able to be adapted to resonate with all internal and external stakeholder groups.
  2. It must put patients’ needs at the centre. Always.
  3. It should show clear localisation of treatment centres, advocates, and patient access.
  4. It must demonstrate a strong numerical line of sight from end-to-end.
  5. It has to include clear scenarios, assumptions, risks, and uncertainties. 
  6. It should be oriented around building strong relationships with key internal and external stakeholders. 
  7. It is critical that it integrates all functions.
  8. It must align to the global launch and value strategy.
  9. It has to have strong tactics, prioritising quality over quantity, executed flawlessly. 
  10. Finally, and linked with component 2, it absolutely must show how the patient journey will become more connected. 

 

“A valued Launch Excellence partner who has exceeded our expectations. For the teams who have consistently participated we have seen a greater clarity of strategy and a level of analysis and professionalism in their launch plans above that of their peers. High levels of motivation and confidence achieved.”

Global Commercial Launch Leader

Creating a Pharmaceutical Product Launch Plan

Developing a comprehensive pharmaceutical product launch plan requires careful planning and attention to detail. Key elements of a successful product launch plan include:

  1. Setting Clear Objectives: Defining specific and measurable launch objectives ensures a focused approach. Clear objectives provide direction and enable effective evaluation of the launch’s success.
  2. Target Market Identification: Identifying the target market and understanding its unique characteristics, needs, and preferences helps tailor marketing messages and activities to specific audiences.
  3. Omnichannel Marketing Strategy: Developing an omnichannel marketing strategy ensures maximum reach and engagement. Leveraging a combination of digital marketing, conferences, medical publications, and direct engagement with HCPs maximises impact.
  4. KOL Engagement: Building relationships with key opinion leaders (KOLs) in the therapeutic area can significantly influence the success of a launch. KOLs can provide advocacy, educate peers, and influence prescribing patterns.
  5. Pre-Launch Awareness Activities: Generating awareness before the launch through pre-launch market shaping disease education programs, and scientific symposia helps build anticipation and momentum in the market.

Importance of Post-Launch Monitoring

Monitoring the success and identifying areas for improvement post-launch is crucial for ongoing success. Leveraging data and analytics to assess market performance, patient outcomes, and sales data enables companies to adapt strategies and make informed decisions.

  1. Utilising Data Analytics: Analysing sales data, market share, and patient feedback helps evaluate the launch’s effectiveness. Data analytics provide insights into market penetration, product performance, and areas requiring attention.
  2. Ongoing Evaluation: Continuously evaluating the product launch strategy and adjusting tactics based on emerging data and market dynamics ensures continuous improvement and optimises outcomes.
  3. Post-Marketing Studies: Conducting post-marketing studies and surveillance helps monitor the drug’s safety and efficacy in real-world settings. These studies provide valuable insights for refinement and enhancement.

Next steps for launch success

An exceptional pharma product launch strategy underpins the overall success of the product, and its ability to positively impact more patients’ lives.

If you recognise the importance of this, request a Launch Excellence Benchmarking Assessment.

In just five minutes, you will complete a brief self-assessment, which will allow us to identify your existing strengths and gaps, benchmarked against the wider industry and our experience of delivering over 200 launches. 

You will receive a summary report from our Launch Excellence experts, with recommendations to inspire exceptional performance.

Introducing Uptake’s Launch Excellence and Early Commercialisation Lead

Jo Lopez is an international pharmaceutical commercial leader, with standout impact in terms of ability to maximise business results.

A graduate in Neuroscience from University College London, Jo has an impressive 24 years’ experience in the pharmaceutical industry, in commercial and market access roles spanning the full spectrum of the product life cycle. 

Jo brings a wealth of oncology launch expertise, from 2 years heading up the oncology market access division at Roche UK and 3 years operating as the Business Unit Head for the Breast cancer division. This included leadership of the promotional and non-promotional cross-functional teams accountable for delivery of highly successful launches. 

Jo has also played pivotal roles in a strategic review of a Diagnostics business and led developing and implementing a new more profitable pharma organisational structure when she was accountable for UK pharma commercial operations at Roche.

International work encompassed a role as Global Launch Excellence Director at GSK, with a key deliverable being the strategic evaluation of their Global Launch Excellence Framework and development of a new version. This was required to meet the needs of GSK’s transition to a specialist portfolio and new operating model, built around the principles of co-creation of Global strategy with local adoption in priority markets and greater patient centricity. Following this work Jo was directly appointed to lead the development and execution of a programme to build Global Oncology Commercial Capabilities for the new Therapy Area.

Since transitioning to pharmaceutical consultancy in 2019, Jo has established herself as one of Uptake’s most sought after project leads, as she consistently delights clients with her abilities to orchestrate some of the most complex client briefs across the full spectrum of our offerings; planning, strategy, capability, early commercialisation, launch,  and omnichannel. Consistently, clients feedback that Jo is as invested in the project outcome as they are, and that she is great to work with!

Jo describes herself as dynamic, driven and dedicated.

Get in touch to request a call with Jo

Meet Our Launch and Strategy Experts

Jo Lopez

Practice Lead – Early Commercialisation & Launch

Cathy Nolan

Practice Principal

Maxine Smith 

Managing Director