According to an EvaluatePharma study, two-thirds of all drug launches failed to meet prelaunch expectations in sales their first year on the market. More importantly, of the one-third that did meet their year-one target, 65 percent continued market growth in year two, and 53 percent exceeded goals for year-three. The group that missed their target upon launch continued to lag in years two and three. And you thought getting FDA approval was the tough part.

There is much more to successfully launching a new drug that meets the eye. Some of the hurdles you will need to clear are commercialization, accurately estimating market size, targeting prescribers, hiring a sales team, and various other marketing strategies.

Commercialization of New Drugs

Believe it or not, you can have the most exciting science behind your drug and yet, also have a complete commercial flop. The importance of a robust commercialization strategy is one of the most critical components of bringing a drug to market. In addition to estimating your patient population or market size —which we will get to in a moment, you also need to consider your price to value ratio, additional indications or off-label uses, factors related to access, market share or competition, and payor models. By developing a cohesive plan that weaves together all of these factors, you will greatly improve your chances of commercial success. Still, there is some uncertainty related to commercialization and these potential problems should be addressed in your plan as well. Working closely with a company specializing in "to-market" commercialization can help with the strategic decision-making and risk aversion, as well as, help shape product-level and brand-level strategy.

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Estimating Market Size and Understanding Population

Without knowing the size of your audience, how can you succeed? Defining your target (real and potential) patient population or market is essential from several perspectives: regulatory, clinical, payor, and commercial. Furthermore, understanding your patient population helps guide decision-making with regard to opportunity and risk trade-off. It also lends valuable insight when determining your precise value proposition, and further in scenario planning. It is with this information, that you will be able to determine the most effective price point.

Targeting Prescribers

Targeting prescribers seems straightforward, but with prescribing habits varying widely, it can be challenging. Partnering with a company that uses big data to assemble accurate prescriber profiles, is integral to successful prescriber targeting. Once the profiles are assembled, pharma manufacturers can more easily identify who prescribes any amount of a particular drug or drug type within a city, county, state, or even the entire country. These profiles are playing an increasingly significant role in how pharma companies approach doctors. The profiles also help uncover prescribing trends based on geographic, demographic, and payor data, which can be helpful in broader marketing strategies. Profiles should also include data on the integrated delivery networks (IDNs), which now own more than 60 percent of physician groups and practices. Increasingly, IDNs are defining treatment protocols, instead of individual prescribers.

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Hiring a Sales Team

A few years ago, many believed that, due to drug pipeline challenges, leaner practices, and the rise of digital, the end of pharma sales was near. Not so. Recently, healthcare's renewed focus on patient centricity and improved outcomes, combined with advances in technology have created an environment where reps are more valuable to a pharma company's success than ever. With a new digital skill set and improved technology, today's top pharma reps address the needs of an increasingly broader network of prescribers, delivering precise data —faster, which in turn improves the patient experience.

It's no secret that a company introducing a new drug wants to attract the cream of the crop when it comes to sales. This means luring top-producing sales reps away from other —often more established, companies— and therein lies the problem. So, how does a new company attract the best sales talent?

Working with a firm that offers PR services is one way to get the word out that you are hiring. A well-timed press release announcing sales team openings is more likely to reach the newsfeed of the most diligent and driven sales reps than a job posting. Alternatively, focusing on the recruitment of highly-experienced C-suite executives, and sales directors is a great way to increase your credibility and pad your team with experience at the top, which will make recruiting an experienced sales team easier.

Another key to recruiting top sales reps is making a commitment to provide them with the support they need for success. This means taking a digital-first approach. There is no better way to keep your company ahead in a competitive marketplace, than by empowering your sales team with the data and analytics solutions they need to succeed.

New Drug Marketing

It has been said that by 2020, traditional marketing will be replaced by a new model as it shifts from the mass-market to a more target-market approach. This is great news for small pharma, as targeting is something they are already aware of and use regularly in leaner business models. Modern pharma no longer being rewarded for incremental innovation, copycat products, and top-selling pills. Companies, today, must demonstrate that their brand adds value and improves the patient experience. Marketing is about getting the right message to the right people and then letting the market decide, not only if it wants and needs it but also if it is willing to pay the premium for it. Today's pharma consumers also want social proof to back up their prescribers recommendation. To this end, social media and other digital channels are becoming an important factor in pharma marketing.

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In Conclusion

Companies must take steps to plan for a successful launch. This planning goes beyond meeting quality standards, regulatory compliance, and benchmarks — it must also shape the product and brand to the market and reach that market with a clear value proposition. Today's competitive market requires that small and new pharma partner with companies that offer data-driven insight to provide a truly differentiated positioning, maximizing launch uptake, and the know-how to use that data to fine-tune ongoing launch, sales, and marketing activities.