January 27, 2021

How the pandemic is impacting the way drugs are launched

Though we don’t yet know to what extent, it is clear the pandemic has had and will continue to have an impact on the pharmaceutical industry and how new drugs are launched. From a pharma perspective, not being able to communicate with healthcare professionals in their usual setting is challenging. But the changes have not all been negative, with new found adoption of digital channels and telemedicine, we are seeing improvements not only in communication between pharma and healthcare professional(HCPs) but also between HCPs and their patients at home.  

An interesting article from McKinsey explores how our new circumstances affect the industry’s launch strategy.2 

(1) Rapidly personalized content,  

Physicians and pharma must tailor messages to patient needs & concerns. The pandemic has brought up a lot of uncertainty and anxiety – the industry needs to understand how people are feeling and what is in their minds. Are they concerned about their risk of getting COVID-19? When will they receive the vaccine? Will they experience any drug-drug interactions by taking the vaccine? Relevant and concise communication will be key over the next few months.  

(2) Analytics-enabled engagement,  

 In order to implement analytics based engagement, pharma leaders must ensure that they have two things in place: (1) A tech/data backbone for data integration from multiple sources and (2) A platform to run advanced analytics and remove noise from important data to aid tactical decision making. As an innovative company we are particularly interested in creating data lakes, that contain information about what, how and why patients are taking their medicines at home, pulling from less familiar patient-centric sources of data such as social media and blog channels. These sources contain quality real time patient information and provide a quality data source of value that can complement and be used independently or alongside other sources such as: electronic records, prescribing info, claims and survey data.  

(3) Innovative patient channels and services, 

Over the course of the pandemic, a staggering 74% of survey respondents (300 physicians) noticed that their patients were delaying necessary care, leading to numerous fall outs and a potential rise in care costs. Even those “super patients” that were the most interested in trying new products were declining in numbers. The industry as a whole needs to get closer to the patient to understand the route cause for this change in behaviour. Again, it comes down to listening to the consumer and reactively making changes – are they worried about face to face interaction? Or is it about treatment maintenance? We know that infusions, injections and other similar therapies usually require hospital or clinic attendance.This is an opportunity to upskill patients to carry out their care in the comfort of their own home with additional support.  

(4) Nimble frontline operations,  

Focused primarily on how pharma companies can help their sales reps build new capabilities that can enhance their impact on launch success. Thinking innovatively about how to use video, interactive content, and multi-physician engagement to better patient care. From a patient’s point of view it’s about being part of the jigsaw of disease prevention & personalised care – providing an environment that the person feels safe to aid in their diagnosis, treatment & management of care. Listening to patients at this time has never been more important. 

(5) Closed-loop execution, 

Across the pharma industry, the consumer is from the HCP perspective, however, thought should be given to how closer engagement and listening to patients could positively affect outcomes i.e. the success of a campaign. Launch plans need to be inclusive, with the ability of being updated in an agile manner, through a rapid iteration model to ensure that campaign insight for newly launched medicines is captured real time, used effectively to align with both the needs of HCP, healthcare services & patients. 



  1. Picture of drugs on an orange background (https://unsplash.com/photos/ZHys6xN7sUE)
  2. Dec 2020 Ready for launch: Reshaping pharma’s strategy in the next normal:https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/pharmaceuticals-and-medical-products/our-insights/ready-for-launch-reshaping-pharmas-strategy-in-the-next-normal?cid=other-eml-alt-mip-mck&hdpid=3e4a928e-40c1-43a9-9c79-994a2ca93d5a&hctky=11415143&hlkid=29764accb11740af909058b07e53a4b3#