Getting a drug from bench to launch takes an average of 12 years and $1.5 billion.1 Given responsible guardianship and the careful promotion to be expected at that level of investment, it should come as a surprise when any drug falls flat at launch.
But it doesn’t – drug launch failures happen more frequently than pharma companies care to admit. From 2009-2017, approximately 50% of drug launches failed to meet prelaunch sales expectations. Over 25% didn’t meet half their forecasted revenues.2 Of the 0.02% of candidate drugs (I in 5000) that successfully reach the market, only a third meet first-year financial expectation.3
And when launches fail, the rationalizations begin: Bad luck. Bad timetables. Unforeseen complications. Unforeseeable competition. The messaging underwhelmed the target audiences. The drug costs overwhelmed the messaging. The drug overpromised, the drug underperformed.
Any and all of these may be true. But, when each case is scrutinized individually, the evidence usually points to one of three problems: the pharma brand managers and their teams did not anticipate their own overconfidence or the moves of their competitors, they did not adapt their strategies to new market conditions as they arose, or they did not align their strategy and implementation plans across functions and geographies.
Anticipate, Adapt and Align – the three A’s of successful launch strategy. To understand and implement them require more than sending out an email meeting request and marking off a block of squares on a Gantt chart. It takes strategic vision, a holistic understanding of every vagary of the marketplace, and a forthright and ruthlessly honest assessment of both the product being launched and the competitive space it is meant to occupy.