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Past Meetings

March 19, 2019

Boosting Launch Trajectory: Lessons from 40 product launches

For our March meeting, we invited Bill McLay and Ian McQueen, co-founders of MATRIX Healthcare Strategists, a Canadian consulting firm focused on pipeline assessments, launch planning, brand strategy and commercial execution for Canadian pharmaceutical companies. As experienced senior marketers in the pharma industry, they have supported 40 product launches since the start of their company in 2014. They shared their knowledge of the most common challenges preventing launch success and highlighted several actionable tips to increase the probability of a successful launch.

Opening Remarks and Housekeeping -   Sina Pousht-Mashhad, John Oster, PMCQ Directors

  • The next PMCQ event: How Empathy Can Transform Health Care — our speaker will be Dr. Brian Goldman, the Canadian author, public speaker, and radio personality behind the CBC’s White Coat, Black Art.
  • Thank you to SNELL for doing the creative for this event and Ostuka Pharmaceutical for their sponsorship of the event.

Introduction of Keynote Speakers -   Sina Pousht-Mashhad, PMCQ Director

The meeting featured our keynote speakers:

Defining Launch Success -   Bill McLay

  • One way to define success is to stack yourself against the blockbuster drugs, but blockbuster drugs have great clinical data, superb marketing and executional excellence.
  • A more practical way to measure success is to achieve your forecast.
  • Regardless of how you define success, what happens in the first 6 months of a launch is critical because it sets the long-term trajectory for the product.
    • It is possible to overcome a poor launch — 20% of products with poor launches do — but it is difficult, therefore ensuring a successful launch is important.

Most Common Challenges Preventing Launch Success -   Bill McLay

There are basically 4 main challenges in launching a product:

  • Launch order: Are you first to market? There is evidence to support that not being first to market is a big challenge to overcome. This needs to be considered in the forecast.
  • Market access:  In Canada, we have low and slow reimbursement, which affects forecasting.
  • Internal alignment: Senior management teams tend to focus on short-term profitability, spending a lot of time, energy and resources on products already on the market. New products take longer to make same revenue; thus, there is a lack of alignment on the resources needed for pipeline products. It is important that internal teams are aligned.
  • Expectations: A launch needs resources that come from Global. To get those resources, the team needs to demonstrate that they are capable of delivering a profitable return quickly. Inexperienced teams often take the path of least resistance to get those resources and tend to over-promise and under-deliver.

How to Increase Probability of Launch Success -   Bill McLay, Ian McQueen

Core marketing competency is simply the cost of entry. A successful launch has additional requirements. In order to increase the probability of success, here are 6 important areas of focus:

  • Prioritize assets: Frequently assess the priority of each asset in the pipeline, as emerging data and changes in the market should impact the priority of each asset. Determining the priority of each asset helps the company know how much time, energy and resources should be applied to the various assets. It also gives the company predetermined goals and activities. For companies that have alignment issues, this exercise goes a long way to improve that issue.
    • Determining the priority can be done in 2 steps: First, score the assets by having a list of 10 important factors and using a scoring system from 0 – 10 for each factor, giving every asset a final score between 0 – 100. Then, create a 5-year forecast based on the best information and data you have at hand. Plot these two pieces of information on a prioritization matrix — one on the x-axis, the other on the y-axis — to see which assets are in each of the 4 quadrants.
  • Start early: Get resources from Global as early in the process as possible. To do this:
    • Demonstrate to global why the Canadian market matters by creating your “Canadian story” (i.e., your value proposition). Gather your internal cross-functional team and external consultants and run a workshop. Ask questions, such as, how many Canadian specialists are global thought leaders? Who are they? Do any of them sit of global advisory boards? Etc.
    • Get a seat at the Global launch committee table to significantly increase your ability to influence Global decisions. Do this by getting on planes and going where the Global people meet (conferences, etc.) Make sure every member of the cross-functional team is telling the exact same Canadian story.
    • Fight for clinical trial sites in Canada. A lack of Canadian KOLs will impact product advocacy and uptake at launch. To get more clinical trials in Canada, make sure you have the best qualified medical or clinical person in place way in advance of the launch — someone who is very knowledgeable about the therapeutic area and who has relationships with the KOLs. Be an advocate for your KOLs and Canadian customers. Be transparent with customers and let them know you intend to be their advocate. Set up round table meetings with top customers and Global. Try to set up a meeting at your office with Global colleagues and while they are there, take them to some of the more important clinics.
  • Integrated planning: Build one launch plan for all functional areas. Don’t build it with just the internal team — partner with key stakeholders (patients, patient groups, payers, KOLs, etc.) You can have the best strategies and sales reps, but there are so many things that could go wrong and delay launch. Being organized is critical, so get a project manager. Establish accountability and track progress by making all teams meet frequently (i.e., weekly). Don’t meet for long (i.e., 30 minutes or less). These meetings are not opportunities to point fingers; they are for the team to identify and rally behind challenges to get things moving.
  • Lead indicators: “Win or lose” isn’t the right approach to measuring metrics. It is more useful to measure all the things that need to be done. Lead indicators are better than lag indicators. Align indicators to strategy. Gather data during the first 6-month window after launch by looking at various data sources at your disposal, from customer-facing groups to PSP data. Although important data sources, ad boards and market research can take time. Consider providing your field force with a list of standard questions to get a pulse check. Keep all of this information in one uber go-to report that everyone knows exists and where to find it. If you don’t frequently review the data, they are pointless to have.
  • Rethink patient support programs: These days, marketing spend is equivalent to PSP service spend, but PSP spending is larger when you include financial assistance spending. PSPs affect everything from clinical experience to access. These are important factors for launching your product. Given the evolution of PSPs, the brand is now the product plus the PSP. Unfortunately, the depth of planning is not usually where it needs to be. Teams don’t usually start planning the PSP until a year or so before launch. This needs to start sooner.
  • Manage expectations: Global will make a forecast for Canada that is basically taking the US forecast and dividing it by 10. The forecast could either be good for you or set you up for failure. It is important to do the prioritization step outlined above before Global does a forecast. Prioritization helps to control the narrative. Having everyone on board avoids surprises down the road. If you are able to determine the lead indicators, you are much more able to point at those and get the company to rally around those instead of focusing solely on success.


Justine Garner
Freelance Medical Writer
Cell: (514) 605-5109


Wednesday, March 17, 2021

Supporting Care Partners

Virtual Meeting
Time: 6:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Online only!

Tel: (514) 486-3458
Fax: (514) 486-4794

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