A lesson in product launches from Biogen

UnknownAccording to the Wall Street Journal article on Biogen’s new MS drug “”I’m just amazed at how much patient-driven conversation is going on—almost every single patient who comes into the office knows about it (new Biogen drug) ” said Dr. Markowitz.   Dr. Markowitz said so many patients were interested in taking the drug, which is thought to be more convenient than injectable alternatives and possibly safer than competing pills.  While this is good news for Biogen and shareholders there are some lessons to be learned as Biogen stubles a bit with the launch.

Key Lessons from Tecfidera Launch

(1) Too much anticipation can lead to inflated expectations – Biogen’s new pill, Tecfidera, is the most-anticipatedtreatment for multiple sclerosis in more than 15 years, doctors say. After nearly three months on the market, prescription data indicate that the drug is on track to top analysts’ estimates this year and achieve at least $1 billion in annual sales by the end of 2014.  However, as with any new Rx drug, expectations are not without side effects.  MS message boards are flooded with people reporting serious side effects and asking others for help.  Biogen would have been wise to create an MS message board community where their thought leaders could address concerns and inflated expectations for the drug with reality.

(2) Conduct studies on efficacy and compliance comparing your drug to competitors. – Doctors said patients can wait several weeks for insurers to approve reimbursement for the drug, and  insurance holdups continued to cause delays, even if patient wait times have begun to abate. Some insurers require proof that patients have tried and failed competing therapies before approving reimbursement, said Clyde Markowitz, a neurologist and director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Multiple Sclerosis Center. Is there anything worse, if you’re a patient, than wanting to try new therapy only to be told your insurer has not yet approved the drug ?

(3) Use social media to join in the conversation – ” “I’m just amazed at how much patient-driven conversation is going on—almost every single patient who comes into the office knows about it”.  So why wouldn’t Biogen want to be part of the conversation ? The Tecfidera website is very sterile.  It’s now well past approval and new website with full social media and message board integration should have been launched because the MS community is very integrated online.  Instead the head of digital marketing for Biogen is speaking at pharma conferences ?


(4) Conduct competitive gaming BEFORE launch to anticipate issues – Pricing concerns already may be having an impact in the European Union, where regulators have become more active in pushing back on drug costs. Biogen said last month that it would delay Tecfidera’s launch in Europe as it seeks regulatory data protection, a designation that would prevent competitors from launching Tecfidera knock-offs for at least a decade. Otherwise, Biogen must depend on European patents that extend through 2019 and 2028.

Biogen’s drug could indeed become a blockbuster with over $1 billion in sales very shortly but the goal is to make marketing more efficient  and learn from missteps while also focusing on patients needs and wants.

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