January 28, 2014
Standing Out in a Sea of Generics: Succeeding in the Loss of Exclusivity Environment
This first meeting of 2014 was moderated by John Oster from Lundbeck Canada and he welcomed three speakers this evening: Ian Johnson, Principal of Commercial Effectiveness Services with IMS, Jefferey Sleep, Manager of Cornerstone with AstraZeneca in Toronto and Rania Cassar-Awe, Director of Retail Strategy at Pfizer. Each of the speakers were given the floor to discuss their experiences in the loss of exclusivity environment.
Ian Johnson was the first to speak and he reminisced about the “old days” of pharma, when huge amounts of money were poured into a brand during its launch phase and the early years of its lifecycle, but once it lost exclusivity, companies would walk away from the brand. He pointed out that companies can’t do that anymore. Now they’re being asked to hang on to brands and look at them from a lifecycle point of view and not from a launch to LOE point of view. He mentioned that AstraZeneca has lost a lot of revenue from LOE, so now they’re “riding the LOE train” and maximizing the revenue from it. He recommended that companies like Roche and Lundbeck should look at what other companies have and have not done successfully within the LOE space and leverage those learnings.
He said that companies are now investing in strategies to maintain patient loyalty, whether it be through financial incentives, emotional drivers through social media, web pages, patient support programs and patient choice programs. He also mentioned that many companies are transitioning from using smart cards to patient choice programs, which are beneficial for the company, the pharmacist and the patient. He concluded by saying that he felt that marketing will become more powerful than ever before, because it has so many tools at hand that weren’t available before, such as being able to talk about price, the creation of patient programs, social media, and store targeting.
The next speaker of the evening was Jefferey Sleep and he shared the lessons that he and his company have learned within the LOE space. He provided an analogy with Blockbuster Video stores and said that the brand name pharma industry is undergoing the same seismic shift due to “patent cliffs”. He felt that the industry has two options: adapt and evolve or accept their fate.
He said that there were a few things that companies needed to do in this new and changing environment, such as keeping an eye on changing drug legislation, because it can have profound impact in the LOE world. He also proposed the concept of the “zero moment of truth”, or ZMOT, which is the point of being exposed to something and the decision to buy it or consume it. For pharmaceuticals, he said that this was the time between a patient getting a prescription and actually filling it. He felt that companies need to do what they can in this space to get patients to fill their prescriptions.
He also felt that there are untapped opportunities being created with employers, payers, front office staff, medical office assistance and pharmacy technicians. In addition, he mentioned that, internally, companies have things like compassionate use and patient assistance programs and different departments where new opportunities can be found to create synergies and cost savings.
He provided some tips on his personal mindset on how to be successful within the LOE space, which included: 1) be prepared to take risks and foster a company culture where it’s OK to take risks; 2) thrive in ambiguity; 3) adopt a portfolio mindset; 4) invest in what matters, prioritize and only focus on things that are most important; 5) create pharmacy relationships; 6) do it with less, find creative ways to save costs; 7) view traditional competitors as strong allies.
He concluded his talk by saying that LOE success requires transitional thinking and he emphasized that collaboration is king and that innovation is a must.
Rania Cassar-Awe was the last speaker of the evening and provided a slightly different perspective on LOE strategies. She started working in the established business unit at Pfizer about 5 years ago, and back then people didn’t understand what that was about. She said that when the unit was started, they went through the company looking for “frustrated optimists”. They turned these people into “specialists in the impossible” and changed the view of products that were going to retirement to brands that were immortal.
She shared some lessons that she and her company have learned through this process, which were: stop thinking about brands from a lifecycle point of view and think about them from our responsibilities to patients and healthcare professionals - our job is to provide choices and expand access if we can so that patients can have access to the medicines that they need; the stakeholder that really matters is the consumer. She furthered this thought by saying that it’s important to have an intimate knowledge of the consumer and develop targeted approaches to reach them in the right way via a multichannelled approach.
After Rania’s talk, the floor was opened to the audience for questions. One question was around the patient experience and how it might be changing in the current environment. The panellists responded by saying that companies need to understand the current patient experience and develop program that engage patients to become brand loyal. They emphasized that patients today are more empowered and are demanding to be part of the decision-making process, so companies need to provide them with all the options possible so that they can make the best informed decision.
Rania provided a final sentiment that aptly summed up the evening’s discussion, by saying: “The imperative is not to play the game as well as the generics, it’s to change the game and to remember what we’re great at and emphasize that and really work that… We need to do what we do best: produce excellent medicines for Canadians to consume and have them readily available to them - that’s how we win.”