- January 28, 2021
- Posted in Commercial Launch Excellence
This post was last updated on October 20, 2021 at 1:45 pm
The recent Reuters Health webinar, Launch Planning: Build your brand cohort and they will come, featured lively debate between leaders from Novartis, Pfizer and Takeda – industry heavyweights – and Prognos Co-founder Jason Bhan discussing pharma product launch strategies for success.
During the hour-long session, they discussed the process of preparing for an effective commercial launch including how to rapidly find new insights from disparate healthcare data assets and use them to prioritize outreach, the progress happening in the industry toward digitization, and the common challenges pharmaceutical companies face during the pre-launch and launch phase. The insights shared are especially valuable for small and medium-sized companies in rethinking their pharma product launch strategies for success, and to be more efficient and cost-effective.
Below are nine notable insights overheard during the webinar that deserve added attention:
- “Data is more and more connected to the product strategy, launch strategy, and sometimes it is driving the hypothesis of launch strategy.” Chitra Narasimhachari, Novartis
An important throughline during the webinar was the trend toward greater understanding of the importance of data and reliance on data for pre-launch planning. Understanding what data is available and what insights can be gleaned from it is essential not just for the execution of the strategy, but also for developing a launch strategy. Ultimately this focus on data is all about precise execution to reach the right patients with the right therapy at the right time.
- “The key to all downstream analytics is really the definition of the cohort of patients on large and diverse data sets that include the complexities of clinical data.” Jason Bhan, MD, Prognos Health
According to Bhan, to effectively create an effective commercial launch, everything hinges on the patient cohort. Choosing the right inclusion/exclusion parameters and the correct time frames, and ensuring you have a large enough sample size, are all challenges of the process. However, this process should not be the high stakes game that it has been in the past. Bhan argued that with powerful technology at your fingertips, this process should be iterative and fast.
- “Healthcare data is not immutable. Things change. Data is restated regularly. Tests are repeated and information changes.” Jason Bhan, MD, Prognos Health
Data agility was noted by several of the experts as key to a successful commercial launch. This is especially important because the ecosystem of data is expanding exponentially and patient data is not static. Manual processes of data harmonization fail to meet the challenges of today, underscoring the need for technology – smart technology – for cleaning, harmonizing, managing and querying data in preparation for launch. AI-powered technology can help predict, but also categorize and simplify complex data for use.
While large pharmaceutical companies are developing their own technologies to manage and analyze data, for small and mid-sized companies it’s more efficient to partner to gain access to these types of technologies to shorten the process of understanding what data is available to inform and power a commercial launch.
- “Your strategy will differ from your big market, or midsize or small market, so it’s really important for you to bring different dimensions together, think cross-functionally, bringing your commercial and medical functions together to define your launch strategy.” Saket Malhotra, Takeda
Saket from Tekeda emphasized the importance of understanding your market, including the size of the market, to determine the level of investment needed to build an effective launch plan and define KPIs for pre-launch and launch. Inevitably these strategies will vary depending on the market – from niche to mass market, and local to global. The best way to ensure you have a full understanding of your strategic imperatives is to bring together cross-functional teams in a collaborative process during the planning phase.
- “All launches and strategies tend to be global, but then they have the potential to look extremely different locally…Absorb that, embrace it, and then actually try to figure out what are the places in which you’re going to absolutely need to win as an organization in order to make your successful launches and then work backwards from there.” Anuj Maheshwari, Pfizer
The topic of global vs. local strategies for launch was raised repeatedly. Anuj from Pfizer plainly stated the importance of understanding both the global picture and the local picture. At Pfizer they deal with these varying landscapes with a bi-modal strategy that challenges them to explore not only how to mobilize against hyperlocal launches, but also to understand the commonalities that support each local launch as well.
- “You should really think of what kind of data will have the most impact on the business outcome, because there’s so much data in the enterprise and external data is huge, but not everything is valuable for your business.” Saket Malhotra, Takeda
Data plays a powerful role in answering important business questions and powering better decision making, but with the proliferation of data sources and patient data available, it is important to think critically about what data is needed. Saket emphasized the critical nature of understanding what data points are needed to support launch KPIs and your omnichannel strategy to avoid data paralysis.
- “12 months is a really long time” – Jason Bhan, MD, Prognos Health
While planning for a commercial launch is inevitably a lengthy process that can take years, Jason challenged the idea that the cohort definition and data acquisition process also needs to be drawn out over months. He also emphasized that if you have the power to know what the data will yield on the front end, you can shorten the time it takes to create an effective strategy by understanding the path ahead. The data can actually lead your organization to ask the right questions. This level of data access and agility can be a powerful tool in building commercial launch excellence.
- “Covid has made it difficult, but it has also given us a new culture for doing analytics and launches.” – Chitra Narasimhachari, Novartis
As the conversation shifted to the challenges faced when managing data for launch, the need for internal mindset shifts in understanding the value of data for decision making and the challenge of managing multiple data sources were raised as common challenges organizations face. Then the conversation quickly turned to the ultimate challenge impacting launches right now – COVID-19. Chitra, who has been going through a launch during COVID, pointed to the uncertainty created by the pandemic that has led Novartis to adopt a culture of “observe and learn.” The pandemic has made clear that the traditional launch model will no longer work and it’s time to explore and employ new approaches.
- “I think COVID-19 has forced pharma companies … to implement more proactive commercial strategies and accelerated the move towards a digital-first and insights-driven decision making approach.” Saket Malhotra, Takeda
In addition to creating uncertainty, COVID-19 accelerated investment in digital. While big pharmaceutical companies were already working towards a digital-first approach, the pandemic made this shift a top priority. At Takeda, who had a launch just two months into the pandemic, this meant being flexible and expediting new capabilities to support the launch.
To hear more insights on pharma product launch strategies for success, watch the entire Reuter Health webinar.