According to Wikipedia . . .FIFO is an acronym for “First In, First Out.” It’s typically reserved for Accounting, but I’d like to apply this concept to new product adoption by today’s physicians. In the mad rush to meet forecasts, the idea of advocating appropriate use in professional marketing communication is often sidelined. In fact, marketing teams often estimate brand use in patients that were not even studied in clinical trials because physicians might use the product there and they can expand their sales potential by doing so.
This strategy, however, is wrought with complications. You see, the FIFO Principle in pharmaceutical marketing is that the likelihood of a new product being adopted into a physician’s armamentarium is directly linked to the outcomes experienced by the first few patients prescribed the product. In other words, the characteristics of the initial patients (“First In”) and their corresponding results determine whether your product begins to become habit or is jettisoned (“First Out”).
So, what’s the launch product marketer’s answer to the FIFO Principle? Appropriate Use – being crystal clear on patient selection from the outset with physicians. It’s not just about ‘painting a picture’ for the field representative to aid in selling. It’s about pointing out which patients can benefit from the product the most based on the results of rigorous clinical testing. The “First In” (FI) of the FIFO is essential in determining commercial success. A few obvious tips that continue to be ignored:
- Study Population – Clearly communicate the patient types included in your pivotal studies. The physician shouldn’t expect great results when prescribing your product in a sicker patient population.
- Line of Therapy – If you’ve been approved ‘first-line’ or in treatment-naïve patients then emphasize this in your promotional materials. Just be sure you’re definition of first-line is aligned with the physician’s definition.
- Comorbidities – If the clinical trials for your brand excluded specific patient types, don’t be afraid to tell your prescribing physicians about that. There is always a chance that a comorbidity can compromise clinical success.
Think about it . . . as an industry, there is a strong tendency to open up the experiential patient pool at launch as wide as possible just so doctors can get some product use and drive the sales trajectory. But driving initial use in the wrong patient will not sustain brand growth. FIFO is pervasive in pharma and the marketing landscape is littered with its casualties. Just look around.