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Pan-European drug launches need Pan-European partners

11 mins read

Please note, this article contains references to Ashfield Engage which has now become Inizio Engage

Despite political uncertainties and post-pandemic financial constraints on healthcare budgets, the life sciences and healthcare sector in Europe is forecast to enjoy remarkable growth in the next few years.

Moreover, according to the European Commission’s Pharmaceutical Strategy for Europe 2020 report1, the EU will remain the second largest market in the world for pharmaceuticals. However, pharmaceutical and biotech companies launching in European markets still face significant complications in overcoming geographical, cultural and regulatory hurdles.

In this article, we look at the challenges and opportunities for the life sciences sector in Europe with eight case studies to show how Ashfield Engage has helped clients to achieve rapid success with multi-territory launch campaigns.

With more than 2,000 staff in Europe, working across 16 countries in 12 languages, many clients are already benefiting from our extensive European infrastructure, encompassing Commercial, Medical Affairs and Patient Solutions services.

Why Europe is still firmly in the spotlight for pharma and biotech launches

Europe remains a significant healthcare market, fuelled by world-class science and innovation

Europe continues to lead China, the United States, and the rest of the world in terms of the quality and quantity of its science, according to McKinsey’s Biotech in Europe Report2. And the 5 top European markets – UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy – are all in the 11 largest markets worldwide in terms of global invoice spending.

What’s more, spending in Europe is expected to increase by $35 billion up to 20253 with a focus on generics and biosimilars. Significant market value also remains in branded products, including new launches – though the rate of growth is slowing. Some of the trends we expect to see include:

  • Specialty will represent nearly half of global spending by 2025
  • The three leading global therapy areas – oncology, immunology and CNS – are forecast to grow 9-15% CAGR through 2025
  • Emerging biopharma forecast to grow 8.8% CAGR globally to 2023 vs. 3.5% for Big Pharma


Pharma needs to find the right ways to engage

The way in which pharma companies engage with health care professionals (HCPs) and patients transformed during the pandemic. At its peak, 80% of European consultations with patients were remote, suggesting acceptance of telehealth4 is strong. Yet amongst healthcare professionals the story is more nuanced.

74% of HCPs in the EU5 still prefer some form of personal connection (be it remote or face to face) 5. Yet 39% say that remote interactions are worse than in person6. So, while personal connections are still key, it seems pharma companies still have work to do to master the virtual interaction.

Pharma companies still need to master omnichannel customer journeys

  • Only 20% feel they understand their customers’ digital behaviours
  • Just 10% claim they have the right omnichannel technologies in place
  • 66% do not have an integrated 360° HCP database across all relevant channels
  • 54% do not have an effective governance model for digital in place
  • Only 10% completely agree on having a robust process for channel mix decisions

Source: Across Health Maturometer, July 2020 EU data

The use of digital technologies is increasing

A survey of industry experts from Across Health reveals the use of digital technologies is increasing. But only 20% of those we spoke to feel they understand their customers’ digital behaviours, and just 10% would say they have the right omnichannel technologies in place. This suggests that while pharma is on a journey to master the omnichannel customer experience, it hasn’t got there yet.

For pharma companies to be successful in Europe, they need a partner that can rapidly mobilise a team inclusive of sales, MSLs, nurses and clinical educators with omnichannel engagement skills to engage with HCPs, patients and healthcare providers in their native language. And all of these engagements need to be underpinned by an omnichannel software platform.

With commercial field, virtual and digital engagement services on the ground across 16 European countries, Ashfield Engage can deliver truly pan-European launch campaigns. What’s more, with Commercial, Medical Affairs and Patient Solutions infrastructure in-market in all of these countries, pharma companies can quickly achieve launch success even with no local presence of their own.

How we can help you transform your interactions with HCPs

We’re experts at helping clients engage with HCPs, thanks to a blend of sales, account management and MSL teams across digital, virtual and in-person channels.

Build stronger relationships

Using our cloud-based Customer Engagement Platform, we can help you reach more HCPs, create more personalised conversations and build stronger relationships. Combined with the capabilities of Ashfield Engage’s innovative, patient-centric Trak360™ system, pharma clients have a powerful infrastructure to support diversification and pan-European launch programmes throughout the lifecycle.

An award-winning patient and customer engagement platform

Trak360™ draws on a wide range of information, such as medication administration tracking, visits to specialists, and data from wearable technology. This gives care partners, nurses and patients themselves a detailed, 360° view of the treatment journey. So, they can respond faster to patients’ evolving needs, improving adherence and persistence. It’s also designed to fully integrate with our clients’ and clinical partners’ systems, making it easy for you to view, share and act on data.

A broad service footprint across Europe and a track record of success

With many years of expertise behind us, Ashfield Engage is the partner of choice for HCP and patient engagement across the European healthcare ecosystem. We can offer an infrastructure of more than 2,000 staff in Europe, providing a service footprint across 16 countries in 12 languages, with in-country contact centres in 11 countries.

How we’ve previously supported our clients

Ashfield Engage has already implemented over 500 projects in the European market, and offers proven pan-European Commercial, Medical Affairs and Patient Solutions expertise. The eight case studies below represent just a small selection, clearly demonstrating how speed, agility and expert support have been instrumental in helping clients rapidly succeed in a complex marketplace.

Rapid entry into two European markets for epilepsy treatment

A European company was taking over promotion of an epilepsy medication. They wanted to launch in two European countries, neither of which had legal entities. Speed was of the essence, and they needed a partner with both a country-specific presence and expertise. Ashfield Engage sourced experienced medical, commercial, GM and support teams in both countries where the drug was to be launched.  We also provided the overarching MSA, including individual country work orders, as well as additional marketing services.

To date we’ve rolled out differentiated services in two European countries, building sales and brand awareness, and helping the company establish a medical and commercial presence in both. We also assisted the transfer of country activities from the old to new market authorisation holder.

Full-service 15-country solution for ophthalmology client

Another of our clients had a presence within the ophthalmology market in four EU markets and wanted to expand to 15 countries, including UK & Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Austria, Switzerland, Benelux and Turkey. They tasked us with the roll-out of services, including to countries where they had no current presence. The project also covered the takeover of established brands and preparation of new launches.

This required marketing, embedded sales, general management, medico-Legal sign-off, Pan-EU CRM and distribution services.

We were able to advise the client on the right solution for each country, and how to manage this complex process. We gathered and built a unique suite of services that could be deployed and tailored to each country’s requirements. The entire project was overseen at above-country level by an Ashfield Engage Project Director and a European Client Director. Meanwhile, Ashfield Engage in-country teams delivered a focused resource at country level.

Providing an outsourced commercial operation for cardiovascular launch into Europe

This client needed to bring their innovative cardiovascular product portfolio to the European market at speed – but lacked an operational footprint in the region. We were able to help build a commercial operation including medical science liaisons (MSLs), key account managers, sales representatives, omnichannel representatives, and contact centre support services, targeting specialist and primary care. We also supported the client with the direct recruitment of senior leadership roles and employees, ranging from in-country General Managers to above-country commercial, market access and marketing roles.

The project will encompass over 550 personnel across 15 countries for an initial period of three years. Our infrastructure, expertise and commercial ingenuity is vital to the partnership. We’ve provided offices and IT infrastructure for head office teams in Germany, as well as commercial consultancy with local Ashfield Engage management.

Helping a US pain management therapeutic leader expand into Europe

A US-based leader in non-opioid pain management and regenerative health was looking to expand into the UK and EU. They wanted to launch two products designed to be used before and during patient operations.

As the leading contract services organisation in 12 European countries – and with a wealth of centrally managed teams with local expertise – Ashfield Engage was tasked with assembling commercial sales and medical affairs teams, to help launch both products.

There were notable barriers to achieving this goal, not least the ongoing pandemic, which made this a particularly challenging period to attract both KAM and MSL talent back into the jobs market. Finding experienced MSLs with relevant experience in the devices and pain management therapeutic areas, was also a significant challenge.

“We are investing significantly in the European market and pleased to be able to call upon strategic partners to support this endeavour with the same determination we have. The speed at which Ashfield Engage readied our commercial operations in Germany has been fantastic.”
SVP Commercial Head Europe

Rapid delivery of global MSL solution in support of COVID-19 vaccine

Up against the urgency of the pandemic, our client needed agile, speedy, and streamlined operationalization of an MSL solution across global markets to support the delivery of information to KOLs regarding their COVID-19 vaccine.

We recruited 24 MSLs in total, across eight countries, including ten MSLs and two managers in the US, three MSLs in Canada, and eight MSLs and one manager in Europe (six countries). We were able to recruit, train and deploy the entire team over just 8-12 weeks. The project was underpinned by an Ashfield Health medical communications program, including training and resource development and execution.

Recruitment and deployment of 12 MSLs in Western Europe for a US biotech company

A pharmaceutical company wanted to enter the EU market.  Due to a headcount freeze, the client decided to utilise temp-to-hire MSLs. They needed to recruit top-class employees with several years’ experience in anticoagulation, intensive care and KOL management. Therefore, a thorough assessment of candidates was required.

We launched a targeted marketing initiative to attract potential candidates. We also organised and conducted the assessment centres in Frankfurt and Birmingham, evaluating over 50 candidates across ten two-day sessions.

We managed to fill all 12 vacancies in just 12 weeks. After 12 months, all the MSLs were transferred to the client’s payroll. The new team was managed by an Ashfield Engage line manager before transition to the client.

A 50-country global vaccine support centre established in just 12 weeks

Working under extreme deadlines during the pandemic, we established a global contact centre solution to support the Emergency Use Authorisation and commercial launch of a Covid-19 vaccine, operational from four worldwide contact centres, running customer service and medical information enquiries with a team of 100 agents in 50 countries.

The project used industry-leading technology including a global, integrated CRM and telephony system, Five9 and Ashfield’s Trak360 patient engagement platform to deliver a globally aligned strategy and full customer service and medical information support.

Developing a fully integrated patient support programme with patient segmentation

Our client was launching a Biosimilar into Europe and required a Patient Support Programme to provide a service to match the originator molecule, which had set high expectations in the markets. The programme needed to meet the legal and regulatory requirements of the countries on launch and cater for specificities.

The programme also had to be modular in nature and ‘future proof’ from a technological perspective. We developed a programme based on a patient segmentation model, allowing tailored communications to be delivered via Telephone, Email, SMS and Web.

We also provided a local contact centre infrastructure and support for outbound and inbound calling. Plus, we created Email and SMS content to support patient adherence, and website content too. The end-to-end process and automation of all digital communications was managed by our Health Cloud platform.

Proven pan-European commercial, medical affairs and patient solutions expertise

Having already implemented over 500 projects in the European market spanning commercial, medical affairs and patient solutions service provision, Ashfield Engage is uniquely positioned to help companies launch drugs in multiple territories.

We can offer an infrastructure of more than 2,000 staff in Europe, providing a service footprint across 16 countries in 12 languages, with in-country contact centres in 11 countries.

For expert advice and insight on how to ensure a successful drug launch across multiple European territories, get in touch with Ashfield Engage today.