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Pharmaceutical Brand Launch: Does Order to Market Still Matter?

Pharmaceutical companies have long sought to move their emerging brands to market well ahead of their competitors.  This first-to-market status has historically been a key consideration in pharmaceutical brand launch strategies. However, as the market becomes more crowded, fewer firms can claim this status for their new products. 

A recent Wall Street Journal article celebrates the US FDA’s approval of Amgen’s new cholesterol-lowering drug, Repatha.  This particular treatment is targeted at patients seeking a statin alternative.  But Repatha is certainly not the first drug of its class to hit the US.  In fact, the first medication of this class (Praluent, Sanofi SA and Regeneron Pharmaceuticals Inc.) from was recently approved for the US market in July.  This rapid succession of approval begs the question, does order of market entry still have the same impact for emerging products?

Payers intended to leverage the competition between Praluent and Repatha to ensure that they achieve the best possible price for these drugs.  This type of negotiation is just one aspect of launch strategy that pharma companies used to work hard to avoid.  With diminishing time gaps between product approvals—a practice that was much more uncommon in previous years—may be happening as companies focus on the same drug targets.  Mr. Pratap Khedkar from sales and market firm ZS Associates told the Wall Street Journal, “The order of entry advantage, which used to be significant, is less than it used to be and will probably diminish further.”

Recent Cutting Edge Information research suggests that not all pharmaceutical companies take such a blasé approach to launch order.  On interviewed executive from a small pharma company explained.  “When you work with a molecule, you have to think ‘What is going to be the strategic archetype you will launch this molecule under?’ Is it going to be first-in-class, or a second or better?” These factors—especially the product’s order to market, greatly influences the time and monetary investments required for brand launch and commercialization. The executive also noted, “Because our product will be a first-in-class drug, our company will hopefully get a better price, and maybe even fast track approval.”

Another interviewed executive described the advantage of being second to market, however.  This executive supported a follow-on mental health drug with multiple established competitors in the market.  “Our product definitely followed the second or better archetype, but we had the advantage in terms of the brand’s pain relief and analgesic properties. We created awareness around those symptoms, as well as around our brand’s performance in treating them to match the needs of the marketplace.”

So does order to market still have the same impact on pharmaceutical brand launch? First-in-class status may certainly mean a difference in launch preparation.  However, we may have to wait to see the impact of new product launch timing strategies on lifetime commercial revenue.

To learn more about the research findings in Cutting Edge Information’s Pharmaceutical Commercialization Profiles report, download the summary here.

Victoria Cavicchi
Senior Research Analyst
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