Driving Launch Success
Less can be more in the right channel mix recipe
White Paper
Sep 03, 2018

As the commercial environment becomes increasingly competitive, with success driven predominantly by specialty product launches in the largest developed markets, companies are faced with the challenge of improving launch performance while controlling costs. To address this, companies must arm themselves with a best in class commercial model, a key component of which is a fully integrated multichannel approach. Multichannel implies a choice between a range of channels, and therefore digital channels must be an effective option among these.

In this white paper, we compare the use of digital channels for the most internationally commercially successful launches of the last five years using parameters measuring both the quantity and quality of digital engagement.

The most successful brand launches:
  • Execute sustained activities across a rich set of channels
  • Treat digital as a key component of the overall channel mix investment
  • Optimise budget return to achieve best in class performance, without spending more


Now more than ever, delivering strong and consistent launch is critically important for pharmaceutical companies. Portfolio renewal is challenging: less than half of the world’s top 20 pharmaceutical companies generated over 15% of their 2017 sales from products launched in the last five years. As R&D costs continue to rise, companies must sustain returns by launching commercially successful innovative products into an environment where competition is increasingly focused. The market is not only becoming more concentrated geographically, with 87% of the first fiveyear sales of new active substances coming from just 7 countries (US, EU5, and Japan), but the number of launches is also increasing, with FDA approvals of new active substances reaching a 10 year high in 2017.

The decisive shift towards specialty products as the main value growth driver has had a significant impact on the launch environment. While specialty products now make up over a third of global sales in value terms, they actually contributed 55% of global five-year value growth (in 2017, traditional product value declined for the first time meaning the specialty segment of the market drove all net growth). New specialty products are usually expensive and treat complex and serious diseases most often affecting small patient populations. Squeezed healthcare budgets have led to push-back from payers, further challenging revenues and returns. Specialty products are also generally initiated and prescribed by specialist physicians, presenting a promotional challenge: on the one hand, specialists represent a much smaller target audience than GPs meaning that the relative value of each doctor is much higher and each promotional contact must therefore be as impactful as possible; on the other hand, treatment pathways often involve complex networks of different types of health care professional, increasing the need for an orchestrated approach to targeting and engaging with disparate decision makers.

In this high-stakes context, companies are faced with a three-way problem:
  • Increase the number of launches while consistently maximising their commercial success
  • Do so without significant increase to SG&A spending due to squeezed budgets
  • Launch products into a complex and increasingly competitive, often specialty, environment

To succeed in this market environment, companies must arm themselves with a best in class specialty commercial model, two key pillars of which are a full-spectrum multichannel approach and an integrated customer facing team. Field forces are shrinking1 and the roles within them are changing. While traditional sales reps remain an essential element, other more specialised functions are becoming increasingly important and necessary to navigate the complex and interwoven networks of physicians and other stakeholders (eg payers, patients) of the specialty world.

This customer facing team must work alongside, and indeed be fully integrated within, a multichannel approach in which digital channels are a viable and effective option for communicating with healthcare professionals (HCPs). Digital channels not only offer opportunities for cost-management, they also offer the possibility of reinforcing relationships with HCPs via increased interaction frequency and delivery of rich, relevant content. In an environment where faceto-face access to physicians is becoming increasingly restricted, this is essential.

To ensure effective engagement with HCPs, pharma must digitise. We know from previous work published by IQVIA, that there is significant demand from HCPs for digital communication as it allows them to manage their interactions with pharma according to their own preferences. This is obviously mutually beneficial as it allows doctors to obtain necessary information and provides pharma the opportunity to communicate with doctors about their products in a setting where they are most likely to be receptive. Importantly however, our research also showed that in many of the top developed markets, this demand is still not being met by pharma.

With digitisation of commercial engagement at launch at the centre of this change, we evidence digital’s impact and effectiveness investigating the correlation between launch success and use of digital channels around launch.


Due to the geographic concentration of first year sales for new active substances in these markets, we focussed this analysis on the US, Japan and top 5 Europe. Within these markets we identified the most commercially successful launches of new active substances from the 5 year period from January 2012 to September 2016 (later launches were not considered as one full year of data following launch was required for this analysis).

Commercially successful launches, were defined within each country as products that were ranked consistently in the top quartile based on absolute value sales for each of the first four quarters following launch. “International top sellers”, were those launches that fulfilled these criteria in two or more of the 7 countries considered for this analysis. We then used ChannelDynamics® promotional audit data to investigate how digital channels were used during the first four quarters following launch. The five digital channels measured in volume terms were email, e-details (live, remote), e-details (automated), e-meetings (live), and e-meetings (automated).

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