For those launching their first product, the process can be incredibly daunting – but if you know what to look for, both the successes and the failures can help guide your launch strategy.

With over 215+ new product launches since our inception, we’ve got a firm grasp on what works and what doesn’t. Here are 5 key takeaways we’ve developed over the years.

1. Prepare the organization, not just the product.

Companies that are launching for the first time often don’t have name recognition, relationships in the market, or sufficient resources – three key predictors of success. Yes, effectively navigating the official launch is important, but for small-cap companies, the pre-launch phase could be the deciding factor. Between 2013 and 2015, 86% of small-cap companies hit below consensus forecast expectations. Notably, over 70% of small-cap companies did not have prior launch experience or well-established commercial capabilities and consequently, not one beat consensus forecast.

What’s the best way to avoid this lower performance? Take time to build the brand, establish relationships, and prepare the organization – not just the product – for launch.

2. Customer experience matters.

Over the last several years, customer experience has become a much more important factor. It’s no longer enough to rely on just the product or the efficacy and safety to make sales. Manufacturers must understand both the patient and the prescriber journeys and work to create the best experience possible.

3. Market access is taking a front seat.

Our experts found the most effective launches engaged payers 6-12 months prior to launch through Medical Value or Medical Outcomes Liaisons focused on disease awareness and patient burden. Working with payers early on allows manufacturers to better understand a payer’s expected pricing and the factors that go into their coverage decisions. We expect to see market access teams onboarding launch teams much earlier than in the past.

4. Pressure test and view the market without bias.

It can’t be stressed enough just how important it is to execute a launch seamlessly, and this can only be done if a company is flexible and nimble. Over the years, we have seen companies that are slower to adapt to the changing landscape due to their own bias of the drug. Early planning will allow you to pressure test your product and the view of the market – a critical factor for success. Don’t let the love of your product lead you to believe awareness is much higher than it actually is amongst the target audience before you’ve tested that theory.

5. Therapeutic area impacts success rate.

Oncology and CNS have led the market with the largest number of launches that have met or beat consensus forecast. Between 2013 and 2015, dermatology and gastrointestinal launches also saw high rates of success, but this comes from a small sample size, which may not be predictive of future launches. On the opposite end of the scale, most respiratory and cardiovascular launches had the lowest rate of success. Additionally, despite the high revenues reaped by infectious disease launches, more than 50% have fallen short of pre-launch sales expectations. This demonstrates each launch strategy must adapt to its specific therapeutic market – what worked for one area may not work for another.

Launch Success Rates by Therapeutic Area (success rates, %)

Oncology and CNS have led the market with the largest number of successful launches, while Respiratory and Cardiology have lagged other therapeutic areas.

Source: Evaluate Pharma Database, Accessed 3/19

US Sales by Therapeutic area (Year 1 + Year 2 Post-launch, USD Millions)

Source: Evaluate Pharma Database, Accessed 3/19
*Note: Launch success/performance was determined based on pre-defined methodology and does not reflect the company’s perspective.

Need help planning for the launch of your first product?

Two Labs’ team attentively manages the complex commercialization process from where you are to where you want to go, avoiding costly and time-consuming missteps that may delay a launch. Click the button below to connect with one of our experts!