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Developing and Marketing a Blockbuster Drug: Lessons from Eli Lilly’s Experience with Prozac

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Developing & Marketing A Blockbuster Drug: Eli Lilly’s Experience with Prozac BME-6

B. HBS CASE: “Developing and Marketing a Blockbuster Drug: Lessons from Eli Lilly’s experience with Prozac” 1. What factors contributed to Prozac becoming a blockbuster drug? Explain how each factor contributed and what management decisions helped the drug’s success.
The following factors contributed to Prozac’s success: • Prozac’s low side effects and toxicity: The many drugs that were available before Prozac, such as tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) and monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) for treating depression, were too toxic or tricky to use except by trained psychiatrists. In the early 1970s, Ray Fuller, a senior Lilly pharmacologist, had been following new European research showing that a low concentration of serotonin in the brain was linked to depression. A Lilly chemist Bryan Malloy had synthesized some compounds intended to boost serotonin without the side effects of the TCAs.
Human research data produced consistent and positive data. The new lower dose human studies revealed that 20 mg once a day was better than placebo and just as effective as TCAs taken multiple times a day. Prozac also produced fewer side effects, and was not lethal in overdose. Dropout rates on Prozac were comparable to the other TCAs and lower than for placebo that contributed to its success. • Thoughtful Marketing Launch Plan:
When Prozac was launched in January 1988, Ken Cohen, the Marketing Manager made sure that Lilly was fully educated about depression, serotonin, and the practice of psychiatry in general. This was necessary because Lilly didn’t know the psychiatry field and the field didn’t know Eli Lilly. Cohen also recognized that there would be significant reluctance within the company to enter this new market.Prozac threatened to alter the company’s view of itself. He…...

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