Global New Product Launches: Recent Success Trend Unflattering?

New products are the lifeblood for any company, including the pharmaceutical players. Business performance and sustainable growth of the pharmaceutical industry, as a whole depend on quality of R&D output in terms of ‘New Molecules’, followed by successful development and launch of those new products by the global pharmaceutical innovators.

Post-patent expiry, robust development and ‘just in time’ launch of cheaper generic versions of those innovative products, in a mega scale, usually drive the growth of the generic pharmaceutical industry, globally.

It is worth noting that for the last several years, ‘Patent Cliff’ coupled with progressively drying up R&D pipelines and mostly unflattering new product launches, are taking heavy tolls on the business performance of the global pharmaceutical majors.

The changing dynamics need to be considered:

Echoing this development, a March 2014 report of McKinsey & Company states: “About two-thirds of drug launches don’t meet sales expectations. Improving that record requires pharmaceutical companies to recognize the world has changed and adjust their marketing accordingly.”

To analyze the situation now in perspective, let us start tracking the launches from 2006 and 2007.

10 Big Pharma Sales in 2012 from NMEs approved since 2007 – A comparison

According to a June 2013 report of the ‘FirstWord Pharma’, in 2012 the combined sales of 10 top Big Pharma constituents, as named in the tables below, from the New Molecular Entities (NMEs) approved by the US-FDA since 2007, were US$ 14.8 billion i.e. 4.9 percent of the total revenue of these 10 companies in that year from the patented drugs.

Individual performance of these 10 companies are as follows:

No. Company Sales US$ Million Sales from NMEs US$ Million As % of 2012 Sales
1. Novartis 32153 3445 10.7
2. J&J 25351 2593 10.3
3. BMS 17621 1495 8.5
4. GSK 28518 1282 4.5
5. Merck 35945 1515 4.2
6. Sanofi 30879 1265 4.1
7. Roche 37578 1238 3.3
8. Eli Lilly 20566 457 2.2
9. Pfizer 47496 1040 2.2
10 AstraZeneca 27925 449 1.6

(Source: FirstWord, June 2013)

The success rate: With 2007 as the base year for NMEs

This table shows that Novartis and Johnson & Johnson were the two most successful companies with the launch of such NMEs in 2012, as they generated 10.7 percent and 10.3 percent, respectively, of their total patented drugs sales from these NMEs, as against an average of 4.9 percent, as mentioned above, during that year.

If we now try to analyze the new product launch success rates of the 10 Big Pharma constituents, based on the contribution of these new products (launched since 2007) to their respective total sales in 2012, the following picture emerges:

  • Good:  More than 10 percent - 2 Companies (20 percent)
  • Average: Between 5 and 10 percent - 1 Company (10 percent)
  • Poor: Less than 5 percent - 7 Companies (70 percent)

The success rate: With 2006 as the base year for NMEs

It is interesting to note from this report that by extending the ‘review period’ to NMEs approved by the US-FDA between 2006 and 2012 (i.e. one additional year), revenues generated by these new drugs in 2012 double to US$ 29 billion – or approximately 10 percent (instead of earlier 4.9 percent) of the total combined branded drug sales of the same 10 Big Pharma constituents in the same year, as follows:

No. Company Sales US$ Million Sales from NMEs US$ Million As % of 2012 Sales
1. Merck 35945 7518 20.9
2. Novartis 32153 5843 18.2
3. J&J 25351 3939 15.5
4. BMS 17621 2514 14.3
5. Roche 37578 2818 7.5
6. Pfizer 47496 2946 6.2
7. GSK 28518 1282 4.5
8. Sanofi 30879 1265 4.1
9. Eli Lilly 20566 457 2.2
10 AstraZeneca 27925 449 1.6

(Source: FirstWord, June 2013)

No significant overall qualitative change:

Here also, though some numbers related to the new product launch success rates of the same 10 Big Pharma constituents, based on the contribution of the NMEs launched since 2006 to their respective total sales in 2012 do change, poor to average performance with the new products still remains quite high, as follows:

  • Good: More than 10 percent - 4 Companies (40 percent)
  • Average: Between 5 and 10 percent - 2 Company (20 percent)
  • Poor: Less than 5 percent - 4 Companies (40 percent)

However, at a company level, the broad success trend with new products does not change very significantly. Just two new products approved by the US-FDA in 2006 were off to flying starts. These were:

  • Januvia of Merck: Generated sales of US$ 5.7 billion in 2012
  • Lucentis of Novartis and Roche: Generated combined sales of US$ 4 billion in 2012

Is it practically ‘The End’ of blockbuster drugs era?

While considering the larger picture on the subject, does it mean that Januvia and Lucentis would mark the end of the golden era of global blockbuster drugs…at least for now?

This picture may get clearer with the following table, prompting possibly an affirmative answer:

Best selling NMEs launched since 2006:

No. Product Company Approval Year 2012 Sales in US$ Million
1. Januvia Merck 2006 5745
2. Lucentis Novartis 2006 2398
3. Lucentis Roche 2006 1580
4. Isentress Merck 2007 1515
5. Invega J&J 2006 1346
6. Sutent Pfizer 2006 1236
7. Gilenya Novartis 2010 1195
8. Stelara J&J 2009 1025
9. Sprycel BMS 2006 1019
10 Tasigna Novartis 2007  998

(Source: FirstWord, June 2013)

Successfully launched most recent product is also on a shaky ground:

The new game-changing hepatitis C drug of Gilead Sciences – Sovaldi, has generated a turnover of around US$ 140 million in less than a month’s time from its market launch. Analysts expect an annual turnover of around US$7 billion from this brand.

However, sustaining the current sales momentum for Sovaldi in the years ahead could indeed be challenging for Gilead, as Bristol-Myers Squibb is preparing to obtain FDA approval for its own hepatitis C treatment daclatasvir, which has already been cleared in Europe. In addition, AbbVie is also progressing fast with its novel three-drug fixed dose combination in the same therapy area.

Moreover, Sovaldi’s unusually high price has reportedly created a furore in the western market. It costs US$ 1,000 a pill, raising huge concern among insurers and state funded healthcare providers in the United States. The report states that three Democratic members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee have already demanded that Gilead Sciences must justify the price of Sovaldi.

Categorization of new drugs:

Analyzing the current situation the above McKinsey report categorizes the types of new products that are now being launched, as follows:

  • Roughly one in four launches involves drugs that are strongly differentiated from competing products.
  • More than half of upcoming launches are of moderately differentiated products in well-established disease areas, and the priority is to find a way to stand out from the crowd. This requires innovative approaches to unveil insights into stakeholder needs and behaviors that competitors do not have.
  • For roughly 15 percent of launches, the priority will be to establish unmet needs effectively to ensure access to a well-differentiated treatment for a targeted population. McKinsey call these launches “category creators.” Gardasil, launched in the un-established human papilloma virus market, is an example.
  • 8 percent of launches face the substantial challenge of launching an undifferentiated product in an un-established disease area.

Broad strategic steps prescribed:

To address this challenge effectively the above report underscores the need for a systematic approach for the pharma players as follows:

  • Establish unmet needs in a disease area,
  • Develop deep customer insight as a basis for a truly differentiated positioning
  • Land the products safely in the market
  • Maximize launch uptake
  • Use early experiences in the market to fine-tune ongoing launch activities

Conclusion:

Considering the prevailing scenario of ‘Patent Cliff’, coupled with progressively drying up R&D pipelines and mostly unflattering success with the new product launches, how would a company work out its new product launch strategy, is becoming increasingly a critical question to answer on priority.

To appropriately tune a new product in its long-term sales and profit growth trajectory, it is imperative to ensure that the product exhibits its winning trends as soon as it is fired from its launch pad.

This is absolutely essential, as it appears from the above study, around one in three launches has been good in meeting the planned expectations. This makes about two-thirds of new product launches falling well short of target.  It is noteworthy that 78 percent of those new products that fell short in their first year target, lagged in their second-year forecasts too. Further, 70 percent of those laggards did not measure up to the organizational expectations even during their third year in the market.

Thus, any inadvertent mistakes in this area could make the grand finale of intense product development and strategizing efforts over a number of years together with expenses of millions of dollars, unflattering, if not catastrophic, both in terms of top and bottom line score-card of the organization, as is happening more frequently during the last several years.

This trend needs to be reversed with the application of innovative minds and charting the uncharted frontiers, sooner the better, for a healthier global pharmaceutical industry, as we move on.

By: Tapan J. Ray

Disclaimer: The views/opinions expressed in this article are entirely my own, written in my individual and personal capacity. I do not represent any other person or organization for this opinion.

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