In today’s Pharma environment, the product launch period has become of vital importance. Products must make a big splash upon their introduction in order to set up a pattern for long-term sales and profits.
However, making this happen is a process that can be filled with uncertainty, confusion and frustration, and mistakes can set back years of effort and millions of dollars in expenses, as noted in our blog “Why Do Pharmaceutical Launches Fail?”.
Consider AstraZeneca and its oral anticoagulant, Brilinta® (ticagrelor). Analysts predicted sales of $2.7 billion by 2015. However, it was not to be. The FDA required more data analysis. By the time AstraZeneca eventually won FDA approval in July 2011, many analysts had cut expectations, although a few still had blockbuster predictions.
The loss of six months to market, however, meant less time to make an impact. AstraZeneca needed a strong launch hitting all relevant driver messages and driver promotional channels. To do that, they needed strong analytics to develop a plan.
They did neither. While sales were $15 million in the third quarter of 2011 just after launch, by the next quarter they were down to $5 million. It took another 9 months before they recovered and hit $24 million in sales in the third quarter of 2012. By then, of course, they had a new competitor: generic versions of Plavix.
No wonder that Sanford C. Bernstein & Co.’s research analyst, Tim Anderson, called it one of the most disappointing new drug launches in the industry.
The failure was primarily due to poor payer and pricing strategies as well as a failure to communicate the value of the product to payers and physicians. Such an approach requires strong analytics to identify opportunities and risks. I’m sure that, had they used analytics appropriately, they would have seen the right direction to follow, including negotiating creative pricing approaches around discounts or, perhaps, implementing a risk-sharing approach.