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The new reality: Maximizing product launches in the post-blockbuster world

The changes in the biopharmaceutical industry have affected every point in the product lifecycle, with a profound impact on new product launches.


Accenture research confirms that peak sales and the time it takes to reach peak sales have decreased significantly in the past five years. These declines mean pharmaceutical companies need to take a significantly different launch approach in this new environment.

This research report shares seven key lessons learned from leaders in the industry on successful product launches in the post-blockbuster world.

To understand how industry changes have affected biopharmaceutical product launches, Accenture conducted an analysis of the launch environment for the top 200 branded new molecular entities (NMEs) launched between 1992 and 2011.

Our research examines the root causes behind the erosion in launch performance, the challenges the new launch environment brings and what launch brands need to do to stay ahead of the trends and emerge on top of their game in this post-blockbuster world.

Key Findings

Our research found that the average peak retail sales for products launched in the last five years are now approximately 30 percent lower than they were for products launched between 1991 and 2001 (dropping from approximately US$620,000 to approximately $410,000K. Whereas brands approved between 1997 and 2001 reached their peak sales in seven years before starting to decline, brands approved between 2007 and 2011 appear to be reaching their peak sales in less than five years before starting to decline.

Among the many factors behind the erosion in launch performance (in terms of both smaller peak sales and shorter time to achieve them), our research pointed out the most critical:

  • A shift toward treating smaller populations

  • The rise of the “me-too” molecule

The research quantified the trends seen emerging in our experience working with leading biopharmaceutical companies around the world. As we analyzed the retail sales data over the past 20 years, three things became evident:

  1. The luxury days of long lead times to peak sales are gone.

  2. Peak sales are no longer what they used to be.

  3. Launch brands will need to make some dramatic alterations to their launch strategies in this post-blockbuster era.


The research identified seven lessons learned to maximize future product launches in the post blockbuster world.

  1. Create a brand positioning that can stretch over future indications.

  2. Rethink your competitive differentiation.

  3. Embrace advanced analytics to increase launch update and ROI.

  4. Develop a complete understanding of market influence and then work together to manage that influence.

  5. Be honest and objective in confronting your launch plan gaps.

  6. View project management as a source of competitive advantage.

  7. Recognize that the launch doesn’t end at the launch party.

Peter Hansen
Andrea Brueckner
Marcelo Duerto
Wei Chu