Early Marketing/R&D Integration Key In Drug Launches

Increasingly early integration of the commercial/marketing strategy and R&D is a major key to global launch success for the big pharmaceutical companies, according to the latest report on industry launch practices from Chapel Hill, N.C.-based pharma research firm Best Practices LLC.

Today, half of the dozen major drugmakers researched by Best Practices (spanning 12 successful product launches) report commencing their marketing research and planning either during Phase I of a drug's development (testing on a small sample of people) or early in Phase II (a larger human trial), reports Cameron Tew, senior manager of research and publishing for Best Practices.

In contrast, even a few years ago, nearly all pharma companies were waiting until the end of Phase II or the start of Phase III of the drug R&D before addressing the commercial/marketing side.

"The most successful companies now achieve 'share of voice' quickly, in a highly competitive marketplace, by creating cross-functional launch teams or committees," says Tew. "The team develops a launch strategy that integrates the scientific mission--creating a new, novel, beneficial and safe drug--with the commercial side of positioning the drug not only to the public, but to the FDA."



Key aspects of "early-stage commercialism" include marketing research, forecasting, and targeting and reaching out to all important segments of thought leaders, including those willing to speak at the drugmaker's conferences and all doctors who are potential prescribers of the drug.

Early strategy integration also enables a company to develop and plan implementation of a life cycle for the drug--a process that should begin three to five years prior to launch. For example, to leverage the full potential of a drug, pharma companies need to anticipate and plan for add-ons, such as extended relief versions of the drug.

"The earlier a company starts to think about all of the options for a drug, the more likely it is that the drug will be sustainable," Tew stresses.

The report, "Best Practices in Global Pharmaceutical Launches," profiles the launch practices, including marketing organization and investment patterns, of Merck, Eli Lilly, Wyeth, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Pfizer, Johnson & Johnson, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Sanofi-Aventis, AstraZeneca, Roche and Schering-Plough. It also draws on Best Practices' proprietary databases and other private and public sources.

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