Five Common Barriers to Optimal Launch Trajectory (Part 2 of 2) by CMK SELECT CMK SELECT CMK SELECT
Fifty percent of new drug launches do not achieve peak sales, with half of them missing their targeted goals by 50% or more.1 How can you avoid your new drug’s launch from becoming part of this statistic? Read on. In Part 1 of this Insights series, we discussed the first 3 of the 5 common
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Five Common Barriers to Optimal Launch Trajectory (Part 2 of 2)

by B.Turakhia / /
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Fifty percent of new drug launches do not achieve peak sales, with half of them missing their targeted goals by 50% or more.1 How can you avoid your new drug’s launch from becoming part of this statistic? Read on.

In Part 1 of this Insights series, we discussed the first 3 of the 5 common launch barriers.

In Part 2, we address overcoming the last two barriers by effectively working with the right teams and monitoring your launch post-approval to optimize your launch trajectory.

4. Working in Silos or with Wrong Teams

One individual cannot carry the entire weight of a launch on his/her shoulders and make it successful — the same way an orchestra doesn’t entertain audiences with just one instrument. Launch success comes from various teams coming together and working as a group. The key is ensuring all the right teams are included from the beginning.

Throughout a drug’s lifecycle, the focus is on sales and marketing and brand leads typically work with the teams that influence both of those areas. During a product launch, brand leadership needs to consider which stakeholders can help solve the supply-and-demand equation: finding that sweet spot, the equilibrium price that will prime the market so that when the new drug is approved patients will ask for it, HCPs will prescribe it, and insurance companies will (help) pay for it.

These groups include, but are not limited to:

  • Market Access
  • Pricing and Contracting
  • Manufacturing and Supply
  • Trade and Distribution
  • Patient Advocacy
  • Patient Support
  • Regulatory Affairs
  • Medical
  • Commercial Operations
  • External/Internal Communications

Not only is it important to have the right teams involved, but it is crucial to launch trajectory that these multiple constituents recognize and understand the interdependencies between them, and have a structured working environment that embraces maximum efficiency and aligns the cross-functional departments to meet every operation’s launch objectives.

Facilitating regularly scheduled launch-readiness meetings can offer a forum for all functional units to address how they plan to reach their goals achieve, the risks that must be overcome, and what they need from their counterparts.

5. Not Utilizing Metrics and Learnings

For 85% of pharmaceutical launches, the product trajectory is set in the first six months.2 That does not afford much time to adjust should efforts go squirrely once the drug receives FDA approval. To ensure optimal trajectory, brand leads need to monitor how the launch is progressing and take the appropriate action when things are not tracking as planned.

As the launch teams are building their strategic and tactical plans, they need to identify the metrics or Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) — beyond the typical total prescriptions (TRx) and sales revenue — that they will use to measure the health and performance of a launch.

Questions to consider when developing metrics/KPIs include:

  • How effective is the sales force in getting new-to-brand prescriptions? Does it vary by physician segment?
  • Which messages, and in which media, are resonating the most with HCPs and Patients? Are there any regional differences?
  • How fast is the drug getting into the hands of patients? Is there enough inventory to accommodate the launch demand?
  • Which carriers/plans are offering the most favorable coverage, formulary placement? Are there any carriers blocking coverage?
  • Who is attending speaker programs, and how effective are they in getting your message across?
  • How are competitors reacting to the launch of your drug?

Brand teams can best leverage the metrics data in two ways:

  • Use it post-launch to course correct on-going activities such as marketing campaigns, supply or distribution issues, as well as for pull-through marketing efforts
  • Capture the information post mortem for use in future launches, specifically identifying what worked and what did not, and the best practices for working in a cross-functional environment

Once your drug receives FDA approval, you need to routinely track the status of each metric/KPI to gauge how close it is to achieving target outcomes, and course correct when necessary. We suggest implementing a launch dashboard, a 360-degree visual representation of all the launch activities underway, along with regular cross-functional meetings focusing to understand any differences between the goals set before launch and the actual performance in the market during and after launch.

These meetings also provide opportunities to raise red flags for any actions needing course correction, as well as identify those initiatives that should be continued or strengthened locally or shared more widely as best practices.

All the learnings from the launch-planning and execution should be documented and stored in a repository, from which future launch teams can draw upon the most effective processes and best practices on their path to launch success.

Facilitating the optimal launch

There are numerous reasons why new drug launches fail to reach their trajectory, as covered in this two-part Insights series. Overcoming any one of the 5 barriers discussed will help steer brand teams along a brighter course for success. Because failure is not an option, especially when it costs an average $2.6 billion dollars to get a drug to the market.3


  1. A new pharma launch paradigm: From one size fits all to a tailored product approach. Bain & Company. Published June 5, 2013. Accessed March 29, 2017.
  2. McKinsey & Company, “Winning launches: using analytics and creativity to create superior Share of Insight”, Jun 2012.
  3. Tufts CSDD Assessment of Cost to Develop and Win Marketing Approval for a New Drug Now Published.  Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. Published March 16, 2016. Available at: Accessed March 29, 2017.

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