Merck's Keytruda sticks to TV ad spree, but BMS slashes March Opdivo spend

New Keytruda image
Keytruda continued to spend on national TV ads after on-air debut in February, coming in at No. 2 again in pharma ad spending for March.

Bristol-Myers Squibb’s Opdivo dropped national TV ad spending in March after a bruising battle with a key competitor—Merck’s Keytruda—in February. Opdivo fell from No. 3 to No. 38 last month as spending plummeted to just $2.5 million from $16 million, according to real-time TV tracker iSpot.tv.

The advertising pullback comes after a pileup of bad news for Opdivo and a pull-ahead for Keytruda, which won an OK in previously untreated lung cancer and quickly filed for tandem treatment alongside chemotherapy. Bristol-Myers, meanwhile, dropped an accelerated filing for dual Opdivo therapy with Yervoy in lung cancer, after losing out in a first-line trial.

Merck pressed that advantage in March, bumping TV ad spending to $20.3 million, up from $17.6 million the month before.

Other drugmakers that made the top TV spenders list for March include the No. 1 spender—again. AbbVie's Humira topped the ranking with $31.5 million in TV ads across its three indications for arthritis, psoriasis and Crohn’s disease/colitis.

Meanwhile, diabetes drugs from Eli Lilly and Johnson & Johnson held their own. Lilly's GLP-1 med Trulicity and J&J’s SGLT2 diabetes drug Invokana stayed in the top 10 at Nos. 3 and 9, respectively.

Back on the list is AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo’s opioid-induced constipation treatment Movantik at No. 4 with $16.8 million in estimated national TV spending for March, according to iSpot.

Overall, top 10 pharma ad spending rebounded to more than $160 million in March, up from more than $136 million in February.

1. Humira

Movement: Stayed same

What is it? AbbVie anti-inflammatory drug

Total estimated spending: $31.5 million (up from $20.9  million in Feb.)

Number of spots: 7 (2 for arthritis, 3 for ulcerative colitis/Crohn's, 2 for psoriasis)

Biggest-ticket ad: "Body of Proof” for arthritis (est. $11.9. million)

2. Keytruda

Movement: Stayed same

What is it? Merck’s PD-L1 cancer fighter

Total estimated spending: $20.3 million (up from $17.6 million in Feb.)

Number of spots: 1

Biggest-ticket ad: “Sharon’s Story”

3. Trulicity

Movement: Up from No. 7

What is it? Eli Lilly's GLP-1 diabetes drug

Total estimated spending: $17 million (up from $12.6 million in Feb.)

Number of spots: 2

Biggest-ticket ad: “Katherine” (est. $8.8 million)

4. Movantik

Movement: Not on list last month

What is it? AstraZeneca and Daiichi Sankyo's treatment for opioid-induced constipation

Total estimated spending: $16.8 million

Number of spots: 1

Biggest-ticket ad: “Frank’s Moment”

5. Lyrica

Movement: Stayed same

What is it? Pfizer's seizure and pain drug

Total estimated spending: $15.1 million (up from $13.8 million in Feb.)

Number of spots: 5

Biggest-ticket ad: "More Active” ($7.2 million)

6. Rexulti

Last month: Up from No. 10

What is it? Otsuka and Lundbeck’s antipsychotic

Total estimated spending: $13.9 million (up from $9.2 million in Feb.)

Number of spots: 1

Biggest-ticket ad: “Put on a Brave Face”

7. Xeljanz XR

Movement: Down from No. 6

What is it? Pfizer’s second-line, oral rheumatoid arthritis therapy

Total estimated spending: $12.7 million (same as Feb.)

Number of spots: 3

Biggest-ticket ad: "Porcupine” ($10.6 million)

8. Eliquis

Movement: Stayed same

What is it? Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb's anticoagulant

Total estimated spending: $11.8 million (up from $10.4 million in Feb.)

Number of spots: 2

Biggest-ticket ad: "The Slopes” (est. $6.4 million)

9. Invokana

Movement: Down from No. 4

What is it? Johnson & Johnson's SGLT2 diabetes drug

Total estimated spending: $11.5 million (down from $14.3 million in Feb.)

Number of spots: 1

Biggest-ticket ad: “Turn Things Around”

10. Viagra

Movement: Not on list last month

What is it? Pfizer's erectile dysfunction treatment

Total estimated spending: $11 million

Number of spots: 3

Biggest-ticket ad: "Anniversary Night" (est. $5.8M)