The life cycle of a prescription drug is a well-known path. It will be studied, submitted, approved, and launched (if warranted, of course).

And then, one day, its patent will expire.

Brands have options when faced with the inevitable reality of their life cycle and the loss of exclusivity on their molecule. They may choose to develop and launch a generic or an over-the-counter version of their brand if they believe this is the best way to maximize the value of their investment in the molecule. But if they believe they have built enough equity in their brand, they can decide to keep supporting it with strong marketing efforts. (They can also certainly choose to combine these strategies and do both.)

A brand is likeliest to retain patients if it has one or more of the following attributes in its favor:

  • Chronic – If a brand treats a chronic condition, which requires long-term management, it has the opportunity to build familiarity and comfort.
  • Symptomatic – If a brand treats a condition that is symptomatic, then it’s easier for patients to connect the brand with feeling better, strengthening their loyalty.
  • Lifestyle – If a patient takes a lifestyle drug, they’re probably actively choosing it (rather than being passively “required” to take it by their HCP). And, because it’s unlikely to be reimbursed, the patient is likely already choosing to pay full price for it.
  • Experience – If the brand has managed to create a unique emotional connection through a unique patient experience, it may find patients more willing to remain loyal.
  • Switching – If a brand treats a condition that has unusual barriers to switching between treatments, patients will be less willing to attempt a switch.

One of these things is not like the others, as you may have noticed. Pharma marketers can’t affect the inherent attributes of their brand. That’s chemistry, not marketing. But they can – and must – affect the emotional experience that patients (and other stakeholders) have with the brand. That’s marketing at its core.

From preparation to execution, there’s much that can be done:

  • Knowledge Understand the drug life cycles and strategies of the competition.
    • Effective pricing strategies can be developed and tested once a full knowledge of the marketplace is gathered.
  • Planning Develop long-term projects that transcend life cycle stages.
    • Differentiate the brand with solutions that provide patients (and other stakeholders) with feelings of trust, knowledge, freedom, and power
  • Action Address the “triple aim” with brand efforts that seek to improve the experience, health, and cost for the patient.
    • Remodeled dosages, delivery methods, or drug-device combinations can offer new and better solutions to patients.
    • Co-pay offsets are often underutilized; awareness efforts can improve their use.

Planning for loss of exclusivity should be done years, not months, ahead of time. By working with an agency experienced across the spectrum of these efforts, it can be possible to maximize the value of the brand, even in its sunset years. Your Intouch team can show you a variety of case studies demonstrating our success across therapeutic areas addressing a variety of loss-of-exclusivity challenges.


Joe Doyle is svp, strategic development, at Intouch Group.