Commercialization Strategies in Rare Diseases

Contributed by:

David M. Paragamian, Managing Director, Razorfish Health

NOTE: The content below contains the first few paragraphs of the printed article and the titles of the sidebars and boxes, if applicable.

Agency Partners Simply Can’t Fake It.

Over the course of my career working in pharmaceutical advertising, one of the most common refrains I’ve heard through the years from eager agency folks is: “We need to get into oncology or rare diseases.” I have to admit that it’s a declaration that always makes me laugh a little. For unwitting pharmaceutical agency partners, expressing an ambition to work on “tough” categories like oncology or rare diseases is a lot like an armchair quarterback wanting to play for the New York Giants: Desire is one thing, but actually being able to get the job done is something else entirely.

The ability to successfully work alongside a biopharmaceutical company as a beneficial agency partner and help bring a compound to market to serve a rare or orphan disease patient population requires more than just wishful thinking. Like a hopeful amateur with dreams of playing quarterback for the NFL, a thoughtful and ultimately successful agency partner simply can’t fake it.

A Playbook for Success

Working on rare and orphan diseases affords many challenges and opportunities; however, without a well-thought-out game plan, it’s easy for players involved to run amok on the field. Having worked in this space for almost 10 years on several product launches, I’ve learned three things that are essential to every successful playbook:

1. Approach every plan knowing that the patient truly is at the center.

Achieving marketplace success (or lack thereof) ultimately starts with whether or not patients and their needs are truly placed at the center of all we do in bringing to market a drug to treat a rare or orphan disease. These obvious but often overlooked foundational steps include focusing on access issues, specialty pharmacy services, patient and family support tools, and resources that are truly “on” 24 hours a day. An agency partner either has the experience and the depth of capabilities to create “outside the pill” resources or it doesn’t. Agencies either have the experience to create communications programs at an individual level through the alchemy of data science and digital technology delivery or it doesn’t. Biopharma companies commercializing these drugs deserve a partner with the expertise and ability to understand and help in a holistic way. When the patient truly is served, everyone wins.

2. Always start with the best cross-functional teams.

Working to make the drug a success means working with the R&D team to understand the clinical package, working with the medical affairs team to ensure the clinical data dissemination is the most impactful to ensure that the physician audience is informed and engaged, and working with brand team to translate the clinical and the full patient/family support benefits with precision. Sometimes, especially in an emerging pharma company, the number of internal resources is small, so agency partners must be able to act as an extension of the client team, filling those important roles that might otherwise be left vacant within the cross-functional team in the launch mission.

3. Embrace the fact that science isn’t a “side hustle,” science is fundamental.

By definition, in rare disease therapeutic areas, understanding the mechanism of disease, the clinical effects of the new compound, and the treatment issues for physicians in their current treatment algorithm are critical. As an agency partner, we must have the scientific chops to meet the client at all these levels to add value to the commercialization program.
Just like playing quarterback for the New York Giants isn’t something that can be faked, neither is expertise and depth in what it takes to commercialize novel compounds in the rare and orphan drug space.(PV)


Razorfish Health is a deep science, high-tech agency that helps pharma clients realize the full commercial promise of their brands. Razorfish Health is part of Publicis Health.
For more information, visit razorfishhealth.com.

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