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Smart Thinking blog

Insights and expert advice on the key issues facing today’s pharma marketer

Launch leaders’ blog part 1

To delay or not to delay the launch – ‘that is the question’ nowadays

Welcome to Part 1 of the Launch Leaders’ Blog! Hot on the heels of the wild success (in the author’s mind, at least) of the Brand Planners’ Blog in 2019, here we have the first of a series on launch leadership in pharma and biotech.

Having had the privilege of working on a number of UK, European and global launches over the years in different capacities, I had thought about starting this series with an examination of what makes a launch excellent or, at least, jolly good news for patients, prescribers and the pharma industry. However, in light of COVID-19, we have seen an unimaginable series of events impacting the planning and implementation of pharma launches: delays in clinical trial recruitment, transfer of field-based medical, access and sales teams into virtual working settings, delays in regulatory approval timings, cancellation or postponement of major congresses and much more.

And at this time, never have I felt more proud to work in this life sciences industry where we are researching, developing, testing, collaborating and doing so much more to find a solution to the global coronavirus pandemic, as well as to many other rare and not so rare diseases.

Working across the industry with different teams and in different therapy areas, there are so many questions to address:

  • How will my launch timelines be impacted?
  • How will the post COVID-19 situation impact physicians, payers and patients’ attitudes, behaviours and priorities?
  • How do I move my engagement and promotional mix to more virtual/digital activities?
  • How do I plan my launch across countries and functions in the virtual environment?
  • What will the impact be on launch uptake in the short and medium term?

Wherever you are in your launch planning, it is worth going back to revisit your launch assumptions, timings, channel mix, tactics and forecasts – and probably much more. The good news is that cross-functional launch teams can work productively and virtually with a common goal and set of priorities.

Here are ten immediate areas to review for your launch:

  1. Are your clinical trial, submission, approval and reimbursement timing assumptions still valid?
  2. What kind of changes are there to your patient, physician and payer insights and the external environment in which they will be operating in 2021?
  3. How is the competition being affected by COVID-19?
  4. What are the key internal and external assumptions that you are making as a team and what are the two or three alternative scenarios that you can foresee?
  5. Can you still guarantee your launch supply volumes will be on time and get to your key centres?
  6. What are the new scientific engagement/ promotional channels for your target customer groups across the prelaunch/post-launch timings?
  7. How will the national and local access, health economic and formulary decisions be impacted?
  8. How will these changes impact your needs for resourcing (teams, spend, timings)?
  9. What will the impact be on your launch uptake vs your previous forecasts?
  10. How will you continue to engage your entire organisation in your launch to make it a success from a belief, mindset and innovation perspective?

There is a lot to think through, including some bigger strategic decisions on whether to delay the launch, launch ‘softly’ and then deliver a high profile launch down the line or push forward and launch with the highest profile digital, PR and virtual set of activities available. If I was a potential patient for some of our industry’s newest medicines, I know what my vote would be for.

Stephanie Hall is MD of brand planning healthcare consultancy Uptake Strategies

Stephanie Hall is MD of brand planning healthcare consultancy Uptake Strategies

6th July 2020

From: Marketing

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