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Launch excellence: beyond the six-month mantra

While the first six months are important, the prior 36 months are even more so.

Ed Corbett

By Ed Corbett, Principal at Novasecta, Europe’s leading pharmaceutical strategy consultancy

A product’s trajectory in the first six months is seen as predictive of long- term performance.

This mantra can encourage a sense of defeat if a product fails to deliver the company’s (often optimistic) expectations. Most organisations rely on performance against the internal forecast to indicate success or failure, but this risks excessive focus on internal factors rather than an objective assessment of the fundamentals such as gathering patient and physician insight, constructing a compelling data package and developing a solid health economic story.

Leading companies make sure that such fundamentals are in place ahead of launch by using a launch excellence process that typically starts as much as 36 months before grant of marketing authorisation. With the initial emphasis on strategy, teams then transition towards implementation and organisational engagement as launch approaches.

Companies also agree checkpoints to assess progress, engage the team through internal communications and enable oversight and counsel from senior stakeholders.

As the external environment changes, organisations must evolve their launch excellence processes accordingly. Individualised medicine, real-world evidence and algorithmic prescribing are emerging challenges and opportunities that launch teams need to address – how each company responds to these depends on its own unique context, but ignoring them would be a poor decision.

An imminent launch creates tremendous pressure on teams and this can be acute if the fundamentals are lacking. At any time, launch teams can find ‘true north’ by considering three questions: are we clear on who the key physician and patient customer groups are and why; are we developing a compelling message that will drive the behaviour change we seek; is our value proposition sufficient to secure price and market access? Answering these questions channels focus when it is often most needed.

Post-launch, teams should revisit their assumptions and assess if their strategy is correct, if implementation is sound and what the customer’s reaction is. Considering post-launch opportunities for improvement is best practice and allows for course correction or incremental performance improvement across the lifetime of the product. While the first six months are important, the prior 36 months are even more so.

In association with


15th January 2019

From: Sales


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