How to Make Your Drug Launch a Success


The pain is becoming all too common for many pharmaceutical executives. After a decade or more of investment in drug development and clinical trials, a company launches a promising new product only to see sales fall far short of expectations. Our research shows that nearly 50% of launches over the past eight years have underperformed analyst expectations, and more than 25% have failed to reach even 50% of external revenue forecasts.

That’s a serious concern for the pharma industry, which is expected to derive 25% to 80% of its revenue from new launches by 2021. While the level of clinical differentiation plays an important role in a drug’s success, there are many examples of successful drugs that were not considered a major clinical breakthrough at launch, such as Bayer’s and Johnson & Johnson’s Xarelto. To understand how success factors that are within the control of a launch team are changing, we surveyed 100 senior launch executives from the top 20 pharmaceutical companies. The Bain & Company study examined the performance of each launch across 20 launch activities.


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Other factors, such as comprehensive market research, key opinion leader advocacy and competitive resourcing—all important for a successful launch—do not ensure outperformance. Our research also shows that executives significantly underestimate several key success factors, including customer advocacy and organizing the launch as a micro-battle. And while they understand the importance of messaging, postlaunch data and services, they often fail to effectively communicate their market research to payers and providers.

Click here to download the study.