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Launch excellence in COVID-19 times

By Stephanie Hall

When thinking about the impact of the global pandemic on pharma launch excellence, a number of areas come to mind: the acceleration of digital in all of our interactions, changing consulting, treatment and procedure levels and increasing NHS cost/resource pressures, to name but a few.

Cross-functional launch teams

One practical approach in preparing and delivering excellent launches certainly lies in the cross-functional launch team’s ability to create a winning plan for its launch. More than ever, this is a critical activity for global and local launch teams.

There are many elements to a winning launch plan: insights driven, patient- focused, customer-centric, quantitative, clear objectives and strategic choices, key messages, content and experiences that are tailored to each customer segment, integrated tactics and some good measures, resources and financials.

However, the impact of COVID-19 has disrupted so many elements of our wider environment and the healthcare system that a launch plan may need to be reviewed and revised every 3-6 months in line with the series of internal and external changes.

And at this time, never have I felt more proud to work in the life sciences industry where we are researching, developing, testing, collaborating and doing so much more to find a solution to the global COVID-19 pandemic, as well as many other rare and not so rare diseases.

Launch timelines

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?

Common goals

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.

There are a few immediate areas to review for your launch:

1. Are your clinical trial, submission, approval and reimbursement timing assumptions still valid?

2. What 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 to three alternative scenarios that you can foresee?

5. Can you still guarantee your launch supply volumes on time and into your key centres?

6. What are the new scientific engagement/ promotional channels for your target customer groups across the pre- launch/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 be the impact 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?

Evolving and agile launch plans

The success of these evolving and agile launch plans lies in the people who create them, believe in them and who have an authentic connection with the patients who will benefit. There has been a lot written in the general business press about the success of brands and companies with purpose, with a core set of values and an authentic and transparent way of working.

I believe the pharma brands and teams that will be successful in the coming years will be those who create a launch with purpose, values and a patient-centric vision and who use this purpose as they work together as an internal team and communicate this purpose externally.

The enthusiasm, commitment and conviction for a clear set of values and benefits from scientific innovation in the pharma industry is infectious! (Excuse the pun.) The challenges facing launch teams during COVID-19 times are significant and keep changing but with strong launch leadership, winning plans and a cross-functional launch team ignited by a common purpose, I’m convinced our industry can continue to shine.

Stephanie Hall is Managing Director of Uptake Strategies

In association with

26th May 2021

From: Marketing

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