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Beginning of 1987.

Preparations went under way for the launch of a new product, a mega launch. The product was Tarivid (ofloxacin).

Ofloxacin belonged to the quinolones family of antibacterial drugs, more precisely fluoroquinolones. Quinolones were not new to the drug market; nalidixic acid (Negram – Winthrop/Pharmatec) had been around for a very long time. During the past few years, Abbott had launched Urixin (pipemidic acid) and the last to come was Noroxin (norfloxacin – MSD). Fluoroquinolones were supposed to have better spectrum and efficacy and norfloxacin was the first in this group to come on the market. Quinolones were very effective for Urinary Tracts Infections (UTIs) and approved for that by regulatory bodies world over. Hoechst was going to launch the next generation fluoroquinolone, Ofloxacin. Pre-launch was done in several steps.

Sales team orientation was the first. It was not launch training; it was basic introduction to the drug and its application.

Identification of potential customers was the next step. Tarivid had a wider spectrum, deeper tissue penetration and higher bacterial sensitivity. It would therefore be used for treating UTIs as well as other infections.

Seeding was the next activity done with selected customers. They were mostly the consultants whose opinion would influence the other doctors.

Seeding involved three steps.

  1. Introduction of product before the formal launch and provision of related product information so that the consultant could choose the right patient for the drug
  2. Providing complete doses for a certain number of patients
  3. Recording of observations by the consultant about treatment outcome, side effects etc.

Seeding is clinical experience but not a clinical trial. Clinical Trial is highly structured, organized, formal and monitored program. Seeding is a real-life clinical observation on a small scale.

Team training was next. It was extensive and intensive owing to the nature of the product. A good product training would prepare the trainees intellectually and emotionally. They get armed with information and motivated with positive feeling about product.

Preparation for list of selected customers came next. Criteria were set which the team followed for identification and selection of customers. Initially, a smaller number of customers was selected for introduction of product.

Parallel to the doctors list, a list of pharmacies was also prepared for distribution team to make the product available. The list included the nearby pharmacies where applicable, and the main pharmacies in every city which could be approached by any patient from any part of the city.

Tarivid was launched in April 1987. It became talk of the country instantly; partly because of the product profile and partly due to the price. At twenty-one rupees a tablet, it was allegedly the highest-priced tablet at that time.

Selling Skills courses say that Customer Objections are of two kinds.

Perceived Objections – are due to some misperception. Mostly, these are the result of insufficient or incorrect information. These are easier to handle. Provide enough and correct information and the objection will quickly go away.

Genuine Objections – are due to a real handicap or shortcoming or problem of the product. In Pharma, these could be related to efficacy or adverse effects or stability or price. Handling of genuine objections is not so easy. It usually requires discussion of several other positive features and benefits of the product which could mitigate the strength of objection.

Price of Tarivid was a genuine objection, and a tough one……

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