First-to-market launch? Bonus--but double bonus if you're Big Pharma

When it comes to launching a next-generation drug, first is always best, right? Press releases can call it a "first-in-class" product. Sales and marketing teams can get a leg or two up on any follow-up rivals. What's not to like?

McKinsey & Co. wanted to find out. As the management consulting firm notes in a new report, companies spend lots of money, time and people-power to beat everyone else across the finish line. If a drug doesn't take off as expected, that investment might not deliver the sort of returns executives want to see.

After sifting the data on 492 different drug launches, McKinsey confirmed industry suspicions: Yes, first-to-market is indeed an advantage. The first entrant tends to enjoy a bigger market share even 10 years later--6 percentage points higher than any rival, on average. But averages cloak a lot of individual differences.

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