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Optimizing Selling Solutions: Growing Portfolio Sales While Avoiding Market Cannibalization


A major pharmaceutical client turned to inVentiv Health to help grow sales of its portfolio of medicines for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), one of the most common disorders of the lungs, affecting an estimated 14 to 20 million people in the United States. The condition usually manifests as chronic bronchitis, emphysema or both, and gets progressively worse over time. While there is no cure, medication can slow the progression of the disease.

With nearly 20 products available to treat COPD in the United States, the prescription market for this condition is highly competitive. As a manufacturer of the more popular treatments, the client, a top global pharmaceutical company, is a market leader in the category. The client’s prescription medications have become the standard of care for this disorder — one medication in the portfolio, Drug X, has been a top product for the company since its introduction.

As the client focused its marketing efforts on Drug X, the newest medicine in its COPD portfolio, the company saw declining sales of its older products for the disease. To remedy this, the client set out to optimize sales efforts supporting its entire COPD portfolio. Specifically, the client wanted to determine whether it could ramp up marketing support for older medicines without cannibalizing the sales of the newer market-leading product. The company was particularly interested in growing new prescriptions for one of the older products, Drug A, because the medicine, while off patent, had no generic competition.


To determine whether a dedicated sales team could boost sales of Drug A, the pharmaceutical client developed a pilot sales program with three different testing arms. The company then approached inVentiv Health Selling Solutions — which offers flexible staffing solutions to a wide range of clients in the pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical device, diagnostic, long-term care, and pharmacy and managed care industries — to contribute to this program. As part of the pilot’s first arm, inVentiv representatives detailed Drug A during in-person meetings with physicians. A competing company’s staff detailed the product by phone in the second arm, and the third arm combined both methods.

A total of 36 inVentiv representatives and three regional sales managers detailed Drug A in 11 states. To support the program’s efforts to target 5,000 physicians identified as low Drug X prescribers, the client provided inVentiv representatives with marketing materials and coupons for Drug A. Representatives did not provide the physicians with samples because COPD medicines are heavily promoted and sampled.


The pilot started in the middle of January 2011 and ended later that year, in June. Although much of the detailing program took place outside the season when most acute events associated with COPD occur, the pilot’s results showed that the direct sales team reversed a decline in new prescriptions of Drug A and contributed to its double-digit sales growth. In addition, the results revealed that personal selling outperformed phone detailing. Although the combination of the two methods surpassed any single one, personal selling alone was more cost-effective than the combined approach.

New prescriptions translated into refills, and the pilot showed a positive return on investment for the pharmaceutical company within just a few months. Sales of both Drug A and Drug X continued to grow steadily. This impressive outcome surpassed the company’s expectations. More importantly, the pilot’s results revealed key insights into how inVentiv’s client could optimize sales efforts to take full advantage of its entire portfolio of medicines for COPD.

About inVentiv Health

inVentiv Health, Inc. is a leading global provider of best-in-class clinical, commercial and consulting services to companies seeking to accelerate performance. inVentiv’s client roster includes more than 550 pharmaceutical, biotech and life sciences companies. With 13,000 employees in 40 countries, inVentiv rapidly transforms promising ideas into commercial reality. inVentiv Health Inc. is privately owned by inVentiv Group Holdings Inc., an organization sponsored by affiliates of Thomas H. Lee Partners, L.P., Liberty Lane Partners and members of the inVentiv management team. For more information, visit

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