The Headaches of GlaxoWellcome (
Migraine medicine is a key growth area for Glaxo Wellcome Inc. (Glaxo); a Britain-based pharmaceutical company with global operations. Glaxo's primary business is to market prescription products to physicians and healthcare providers. Glaxo was the first pharmaceutical company to manufacture and market a revolutionary new class of prescription migraine medications called “triptans”. Triptans, which Glaxo launched in 1993, are a class of medications that work specifically on the 5HT-1 receptor sites, which are believed by doctors to be the primary cause of migraine headaches.
In mid May of 1997, Sir Benjamin Palmer, the general manager of Glaxo’s CNS/GI Metabolic division, sat at the head of the conference table in room G-1 of the Glaxo Wellcome global headquarters in Stockley Park West, England. A group of 6 marketers (3 from the “Professional” team and 3 from the “Commercial” team) were staged in front of Palmer and two Vice Presidents of sales (East and West). The three officers listened attentively to the final marketing presentation that more than 60 marketing team members had worked on for the past 19 months. The issue: How to launch Naramig, Glaxo’s new (2nd generation) prescription migraine medicine, in the U.K. In the back of Palmer’s mind were the following considerations: • How would U.K. hospitals and doctors react to Glaxo’s promotion of Naramig?
• What was the best product positioning of Naramig with respect to Imigran?
- Although Naramig was considered by Glaxo to be a better triptan than Imigran, in reality, there were some attributes of Naramig that were inferior to those of Imigran.
- It was not as if Imigran had not been successful: Glaxo had captured 91% of the prescription medication market share (in £s) for migraines in the U.K.
- Glaxo expected the approval and launch of its competitor, Zeneca’s first triptan medication (Zomig) prior to that of Naramig, and likewise, expected Zeneca to market Zomig as a 2nd generation triptan.
8 ½ Months Later
Early in February of 1998, a similar scene to that of 8 ½ months ago, in room G-1 of the U.K. headquarters, was taking place in a conference room located at the US home office in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Mark Glackin, U.S. General Manager of Glaxo’s CNS/GI Metabolic Division, considered several marketing options presented by the team for the U.S. launch of Amerge, Glaxo’s second-generation triptan that had been marketed in the U.K. as Naramig. Although Glackin had several considerations to keep in mind, various factors and events gave Glackin a much different perspective than that of Palmer 8 ½ months earlier: • Glaxo was apprised of the marketing strategy chosen by the U.K. for Naramig and its short-term results.
• Zeneca’s Zomig had in fact been approved and launched in the U.K. prior to that of Naramig. The effects of Zomig on the success of Naramig and Imigran were therefore available for analysis by Glackin.
• Just as in the U.K., Glaxo U.S. expected the approval and launch of Zomig in the U.S. prior to that of Amerge.
• Glaxo U.S. had launched the marketing promotion of Imitrex (the U.S. brand name of U.K.’s Imigran) Nasal Spray 5 months earlier.
• Unlike the U.K., which has stricter government regulations on pharmaceutical marketing, Glaxo U.S. could use direct-to-the-consumer (DTC) advertising to promote Amerge.
GlaxoWellcome Inc. was formed in 1995 when U.K. based Glaxo Pharmaceuticals, a relatively young company, acquired U.K. pharmaceutical company Burroughs Wellcome in a corporate takeover. The acquisition made Glaxo Wellcome Inc. one of the top three pharmaceutical firms in the world with approximately 4% of the worldwide prescription pharmaceutical market.
GlaxoWellcome Inc. is based in the U.K. with its Worldwide Headquarters located in Stockley Park West. As of...
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