The cost of relaunching a drug can range from under $10 million to nearly $100 million. It can also be an investment that delivers handsomely, a new report finds.

The cheapest relaunch strategy is drug “repurposing”, with an average cost of $8.4 million, note researchers from Cutting Edge Information. Also known as drug repositioning, this tactic essentially consists of reviving compounds that were once seen as dead in the water.

Products that never reached Phase III trials or failed to meet clinical study endpoints “may be candidates for drug repurposing down the road”, the researchers say. And the rewards may far outstrip the effort. The report, Pharmaceutical Product Relaunch: Preserving Market Share through Line Extension and New Market Entry Strategies, includes one case study of a company that repurposed a drug with annual sales of $3 million.

After five months of additional testing, the company re-marketed a product that now generates peak annual sales of more than $300 million. The outlay for this transformation was just $31.5 million.

The most expensive relaunch manoeuvre is pursuing new indications, at an average cost of $93.7 million, Cutting Edge Information discovered. In all, the report examines seven strategies for extending product lifespans: new formulations and delivery systems, new dosing strengths, new dosing regimens, paediatric indications, new indications, combination therapies and drug repurposing.

In a survey conducted for the report, respondents were asked to rank 10 elements needed for a drug relaunch in order of importance. The three components that dominated the rankings were, first, senior management buy-in, then adequate resource support and proactive planning.

All three of these elements need to be present for the relaunch effort to move forward, the report notes. “If planning is not in place, company leaders are not supportive,” it comments. “If management is not in favour of relaunch, budgeting suffers. Likewise, a lack of senior-level support prohibits attempts at energetic relaunch planning.”