AbbVie, Pfizer in another close TV ad spending race to kick off 2018

TV watching
Pharma TV advertising kicked off the new year with $138 million in January spending. (StockSnap/CCO)

It’s a new year in the TV ad spending game in pharma, but the top players largely stayed the same. AbbVie’s anti-inflammatory Humira maintained its steady No. 1 spot in January, with Pfizer’s pain drug Lyrica close behind.

AbbVie and Lyrica finished 2017 in the same No. 1 and 2 spots for annual spending, and this year started with a bang. The two brands each spent more than $35 million on TV ads, almost double the next closest competitor, Novo Nordisk’s diabetes treatment Victoza, according to data from real-time TV ad tracker iSpot.tv. 

The big spenders up front helped push total spending for the month to $183 million, easily outpacing December’s $153 million and November’s $159 million. AbbVie started the year much like it did last year, having spent $35 million last January and $36.7 million this year.

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Gilead’s Hep C treatment Harvoni reappeared in the top 10 last month with its “Let Go” TV ad that began last March, coming in at No. 7 after months out of the top group. Merck's Keytruda also rejoined the list at No. 10 with its real lung cancer patient Donna's story.

1. Humira

Movement: Stayed same
What is it? AbbVie anti-inflammatory drug
Total estimated spending: $36.7 million (up from $30.9 million in December)
Number of spots: 11 (Four for arthritis, five for ulcerative colitis/Crohn's, two for psoriasis)
Biggest-ticket ad: “Missing” for ulcerative colitis/Crohn’s (est. $7.5 million)

2. Lyrica

Movement: Up from number four
What is it? Pfizer seizure and pain drug
Total estimated spending: $35.8 million (up from $17.1 million in December)
Number of spots: Four
Biggest-ticket ad: “Kenny’s Story” (est. $11.5 million)

3. Victoza

Movement: Up from number six
What is it? Novo Nordisk GLP-1 agonist
Total estimated spending: $18.2 million (up from $10.1 million in December)
Number of spots: Three
Biggest ticket ad: “Type 2 Diabetes” (est. $10.4 million)

4. Xarelto

Movement: Down from number two
What is it? Johnson & Johnson next-generation anticoagulant
Total estimated spending: $15.2 million (down from $23.5 million in December)
Number of spots: Two
Biggest-ticket ad: “Most Challenging Opponent” (est. $8.9 million)

5. Xeljanz XR

Movement: Down from number three
What is it? Pfizer oral rheumatoid arthritis therapy
Total estimated spending: $14.7 million (down from $19.5 million in December)
Number of spots: Two
Biggest-ticket ad: “Vinyl Collection” (est. $7.6 million)

6. Cosentyx

Movement: Up from number 10
What is it? Novartis next-generation psoriasis medication
Total estimated spending: $13.5 million (up from $8.2 million in December)
Number of spots: Two
Biggest-ticket ad: “Clear Skin Can Last” (est. $8.4 million)

7. Harvoni

Movement: Not on list last month
What is it? Gilead hepatitis C drug
Total estimated spending: $12.7 million
Number of spots: One
Biggest-ticket ad: “Let Go”

8. Trulicity

Movement: Stayed same
What is it? Eli Lilly GLP-1 diabetes drug
Total estimated spending: $12.5 million (up from $8.7 million in December)
Number of spots: Two
Biggest-ticket ad: “I Can Do More” (est. $7.4 million)

9. Taltz

Movement: Down from number seven
What is it? Eli Lilly next-generation psoriasis treatment
Total estimated spending: $12 million (up from $9.3 million in December)
Number of spots: One
Biggest-ticket ad: “Touch is How We Communicate”

10. Keytruda

Movement: Not on list last month
What is it? Merck’s PD-L1 cancer fighter
Total estimated spending: $11.6 million
Number of spots: One
Biggest-ticket ad: “It’s TRU: Donna’s Story”