Is Launching an Oncology Drug a Harder Sell?

As anyone selling to Oncologists might tell you, being a specialty sales rep to this therapeutic area is probably one of the most complex pharma sales roles today. Why is that? More and more companies are adding oncology pipelines, more drugs are entering the market targeted towards very specific cancer types and meanwhile Oncologists are the most restrictive specialty when it comes to accessing them (with 61% restricting access vs. 38% of PCPs). So with increased competition in the waiting room and less HCP time available, sales reps can be challenged getting their message out. To that, add the intricacy of very specific treatment protocols requiring approval and detailed explanation – from radiation to chemotherapy to maintenance regimens – and suddenly, the oncology commercial launch is facing much higher hurdles than a more general PCP oral tablet drug launch would.

Let’s not forget about the Managed Markets team, either. As with any drug, the focus is shifting to an outcome, value based patient care. This effect is particularly true with the implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Reimbursement strategies have changed and, with oncology drugs being some of the most expensive treatments out there, the NAMs job is none the easier.

Finally, a new force impacting the sales model includes the patients – they are now more informed than ever before. Cancer support groups, social media and websites provide the latest information on novel treatments and standards of care. This material is empowering patients and their advocates to feel more than merely receivers of care, but full participants in the process, who may demand tailored approaches to care based upon their research.

The bottom line is that oncologists need to be fully and quickly informed of all aspects around your drug during its launch.

The good news is that for at least the first six months that a drug is on the market, surveyed Oncologists were more likely to see reps and learn about the latest treatments. Unfortunately, after that short, six month window, a rep’s opportunity to call upon and impact the physician diminishes.

So given all of these shifts in the landscape, what is a specialty pharmaceutical company to do? Getting the launch correct, right from the start is obviously critical.

Like anything in life, preparation is paramount. We’ve actually seen pharma customers building disconnected launch reports as the drug is launching, as a temporary solution until normal reports can “catch up” and be built by IT. Instead of constructing things on the fly, why not work with an experienced vendor who knows the KPIs and challenges in the market – one who can set the stage for (and takes the guesswork out of) launch preparation and tracking – particularly during those important first six months, when every day counts.

Interested in learning more? See how Verix’s agility and domain expertise helped Bayer Oncology in this case study.