Rafael Natanek: Excellence in Pharmaceutical Launch

Three things contribute to the success of a drug launch.


Rafael Natanek: Excellence in Pharmaceutical Launch

Bain research shows that half of drug launches by pharmaceutical companies fall short of expectations. Rafael Natanek, a partner with Bain's Healthcare practice, discusses three things that contribute to the success of a drug launch.

Read the Bain Brief: How to Make Your Drug Launch a Success

Read the transcript below.

RAFAEL NATANEK: So product launch is a very important factor for pharmaceutical companies. With many of them facing more than 20% of the revenues from new products in five years time.

However, it's also very hard to get product launches right. Our analysis show that half of the launches underperform versus expectations, and that half of them underperform by more than 50%. So it's very important for pharmaceutical companies to ensure that they can consistently launch products successfully.

To understand what drives launch success in a company, [Bain] performed a survey with 100 executives involved in launches, as well as analyzed over 200 product launches quantitatively. One of the surprising findings from that work was that many factors like market research, share of voice, and KOL advocacy, which many executives spend a lot of time analyzing in launches, actually didn't contribute to launch performance.

This doesn't mean that these factors were unimportant, that they are important. It just means that they are not contributing to launch performance. In some sense, they are hygiene factors.

And the three things that our research shows of what contributes to launch success is firstly, continuous product differentiation. Now every pharmaco executive knows that differentiation matters. But our research suggests that many launches still fail to differentiate given a certain set of clinical data. And the companies that successfully differentiate the product, one, shape not only the product differentiation in the physician's mind, but also are able to change the way the physician thinks about a disease. They also drive differentiation for incorporating not only clinical differentiation, like efficacy, safety, delivery, but frame their messages in the heuristics, meaning they take into consideration the pathways that doctors use when they learn and the shortcuts they use when they learn to craft the messaging and positioning.

They also differentiate through continuous data. And they use post-launch Phase 4 trials and IITs to help drive continuous information and new data sets to allow differentiation. Secondly, successful launches focus on as much on customer experience as on the product among the broader prescriber base, and is really understanding how the doctors in this therapeutical area want to interact with the company, what they need from the company, and how that is delivered. And our research shows that, in many cases, this is a factor that is underappreciated by underperforming launches and taken very seriously by companies that succeed.

And finally, the third thing that many successful drug launches do are focusing on how they organize the launch within the company. And this includes how they organize their team, what power they have, but most importantly, how these teams work. And successful launches ensure that the team works around solving the largest issues for the product rather than filling in checklists.

Read the Bain Brief: How to Make Your Drug Launch a Success


Ready to talk?

We work with ambitious leaders who want to define the future, not hide from it. Together, we achieve extraordinary outcomes.