The FINANCIAL -- When launching new products, pharmaceutical companies should focus more on evidence-based solutions than just the product or brand, according to a new report from Accenture on product launches in the pharmaceutical industry.
Among the key findings in the report, titled “Product Launch: The Patient Has Spoken”: Brands are not major influencing factors when patients consider new pharmaceutical products. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of patients surveyed said the product’s benefits – i.e., treatment outcomes – are more important than the brand itself, with less than one-third (31 percent) citing a strong affinity to brands in a healthcare setting.
The report identifies the factors influencing patients’ consideration and selection of new treatments coming to market. Based on a survey of 8,000 patients in France, Germany, the U.K. and the U.S across eight therapeutic areas – immunology, cardiology, pulmonology, neurology, oncology, rheumatology, endocrinology and eye disease – the report is designed to help pharmaceutical companies understand what will help enable them to launch new treatments successfully in a market characterized by more-complex specialty therapeutics, rising costs and an intensified focus on value and outcomes.
“Patients feel that the treatment choices they make are often not based on the full picture, so there’s clearly an opportunity for pharmaceutical companies to help bridge the gap in patient knowledge in new and meaningful ways,” said Boris Bogdan, M.D., a managing director in Accenture’s Life Sciences practice and a co-author of the report. “This lack of knowledge extends to the services that support them in their product use. Our previous research found that less than one in five patients are very aware of these services, but those who are aware of them use and greatly value them.”
When asked which factors influence their healthcare and product/treatment decisions, patients most often cited the doctor/physician relationship (66 percent), the patient’s ability to maintain their current lifestyle (55 percent), and ease of access to the care they’ll need (53 percent). Brand loyalty or popularity was relatively unimportant, ranking twelfth out of 14 influencing factors.
“Given the significant budgets pharmaceutical companies devote to driving brand equity in the marketplace, our report findings should be a strong signal to the industry that launch strategies need to change,” said Jim Cleffi, a managing director in Accenture’s Life Sciences practice and also co-author of the report. “Patients in our study made it clear that outcomes matter most which means that pharma companies should focus their launch strategies and communications more on patient value and impact versus the brand—and do so in a much more precise and personalized way. Reallocating parts of launch budgets to programs that resonate the most with different patient segments would not only better meet patients’ needs and deliver better outcomes, but likely provide the companies with better ROI.”
The report also notes that patients want to be better informed about new therapies, the outcomes they can deliver and have a stronger voice in their treatment decisions, with most patients lacking product and treatment knowledge. Specifically, fewer than four in 10 patients (38 percent) said they feel very knowledgeable about new or existing products coming to market for their condition, and one-quarter (25 percent) reported having either very limited or no knowledge of new products that might be suitable for them. In addition, less than half (48 percent) of patients believe that their doctors discuss the full range of product options with them, and even fewer (44 percent) feel that they have significant input into their treatment selection — even though nearly two-thirds (63 percent) of all patients surveyed said they want to be involved in such decisions.
The report highlights the continuing importance of the patient-physician relationship. For instance, despite survey results showing that many patients look online for information about new treatments, physicians remain the primary influencer of their treatment choices. In fact, the reason patients cited most often for switching treatments was a recommendation from their physician (cited by 81 percent of patients who switched treatments), followed by proven benefits compared to current treatment (79 percent) and fewer side-effects than their current treatment (78 percent).
“We may be in the digital era, but healthcare remains very personal and will continue to be heavily influenced by the importance that patients attach to trust and relationships,” Cleffi said. “However, the digital era affords the opportunity to extend those relationships and deepen patient knowledge on a much more personalized level.”
The report also notes that patients who consider switching treatments often do. For instance, almost half (47 percent) of the patients said they’ve thought about switching their treatment at some point, and nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of those who think about switching end up doing so.
The survey findings also identified differences in attitude and behavior by age group, with younger patients more likely than older ones to understand which treatments are available—and switch treatments when they believe there’s something better. For instance, while physician recommendation was the most-cited reason across all age groups for switching treatment, Millennials are almost twice as likely as Baby Boomers to be influenced by people posting alternative treatment options on social media.
Given the survey findings, the Accenture report makes two major recommendations for pharmaceutical companies:
Bring an outcome – not just a product – to market. Patients value outcomes over brands, so instead of launching just products, pharmaceutical companies should start launching evidence-based solutions, or products with services as a secondary offering. This will require collaborative data-sharing – between patients, providers and payers – along with advanced analytics to generate robust insights and delivery via digital channels. This mindset should begin at the clinical trial-stage so it informs new launch strategies and full commercialization.
Make it personal and precise. One size no longer fits all; pharmaceutical companies need to understand patient sub-segments and develop value-driven launch strategies tailored to each segment. Harnessing advanced analytics and other new technologies that leverage the proliferation of health data will help enable companies to modify launch strategies that make new treatments more relevant to patients while also driving better-informed resource and investment allocations.
“Since today’s digitally empowered patients want to know about new treatment options, have more input into their treatment decisions and feel confident they’re receiving the best treatment, yesterday’s product-launch playbook won’t provide the expected patient or business outcomes,” Bogdan said. “Companies need to expand their product launch capabilities to be much more personalized — customized to the disease they’re treating and specific to the life context and preferences of each patient sub-segment.”