Pharma's DTC ad spending soars past $5B in 2015

More drugs have come to mean more DTC advertising. And 2015 was a record year for both.

Pharma spent $5.17 billion on direct-to-consumer advertising last year, according to Nielsen's calculations, nearing the previous pinnacle of $5.4 billion set in 2006. That's a 14.9% increase over the $4.5 billion spent in 2014, capping three years of DTC ad gains since a low of $3.4 billion in 2012.

"Drug DTC spending all depends on new product launches. It's no longer 'are they doing it?' They are doing it," said Bob Ehrlich, chairman-CEO of DTC Perspectives, a DTC publishing, conference, training, and consulting company. "There is pressure to stay competitive with the competition, but also the recognition that advertising does work."

The biggest DTC drug spenders range not only across conditions treated, but also pharma companies, backing Ehrlich's assertion that everyone is doing it. He noted the top spenders for 2015 as Valeant's ($VRX) Xifaxan, Sanofi's ($SNY) Toujeo, Merck's ($MRK) Belsomra, GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) Breo Ellipta, Gilead's ($GILD) Harvoni, Eli Lilly's ($LLY) Trulicity, Boehringer Ingelheim's Jardiance, Allergan's ($AGN) Namzaric, and AstraZeneca's ($AZN) Brilinta.

DTC Perspectives CEO Bob Ehrlich

Ehrlich shared the Nielsen data with FiercePharmaMarketing from his paid subscriber report; Nielsen has not yet formally released the 2015 data.

Ehrlich noted there has been an increase in the number of pharma companies with expensive drugs for less common conditions, such as cancer or hepatitis C, that now do DTC ad campaigns, which they wouldn't have done in the past.

"With drugs with a very high price tag, they realize if they can create demand or interest, it doesn't take many users to get a return on that investment," Ehrlich said.

He said he expects spending to continue to increase in 2016, albeit likely at a slower rate than the jumps in the past two years.

- read DTC Perspectives post

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