Page 5: Global marketing of new drugs
Having acquired a licence, AstraZeneca has to market its new drug and attempt to earn a return on the investment. This is by no means an easy or foregone conclusion. Most new products face stiff competition from established medicines and doctors may need to be convinced to prescribe a brand new product in place of a tried and tested medicine.
Although a patent may last 20 years, the new drug may have been ten years in development. This drastically reduces the time available to recoup the cost of the research and development. Further competition may come from other products, different in their make-up, but launched in the same drug class to treat the same illnesses.
All these influences make the marketing of pharmaceutical products intensely competitive. Consequently marketing expenditure can be extremely high and AstraZeneca employs over 24,000 people in sales and marketing worldwide. However, the rewards for a successful brand can be considerable. By way of comparison, annual sales of Snickers, the world’s largest selling chocolate bar are $1bn. AstraZeneca’s Losec® - the world’s number one selling prescription medicine - has annual sales of $6bn.
The best way to ensure a financial success is to discover and market a drug substance that treats an illness in a way that no existing medicine has done before. AstraZeneca employs some 10,000 people in the UK, who work in all areas of the business including Research & Development, Production and Sales and Marketing.
Sales and Marketing has 1,800 of these employees, the majority of whom work in the sales field, visiting GP surgeries, hospital consultants, nurses and NHS budget decision-makers. They are provided with all the necessary promotional materials and information about prescribing the new medicine.