In another record year for pharma TV ads, spending soars to $3.7B in 2018

If you thought the $3.45 billion pharma spent on 2017 TV adds was a lot, check out what the industry did in 2018.

Drugmakers kept spending big—and, in fact, went even bigger, dropping more than $3.73 billion on national TV commercials last year, according to data from real-time TV ad tracker That’s an increase of almost $300 million over the 2017 tally.

AbbVie anti-inflammatory Humira continued to lead the pack with $375 million spent on 18 commercials across the three conditions the company advertises against. That marked an increase of $34 million over 2017's tally. By indication, Humira spent the most on arthritis TV ads ($212 million), followed by Crohn’s and colitis ($115 million) and psoriasis ($47 million), according to iSpot data.

RELATED: AbbVie inks yet another Humira biosim deal—this time with Novartis—as EU launches near

Humira was followed by Pfizer’s Lyrica again this year, which, although it cut TV spending sharply in the last few months of 2018, still managed to hold onto the No. 2 spot. Pfizer’s Xeljanz and Eli Lilly’s Trulicity also stayed in the same TV spending positions at Nos. 3 and 4, with each increasing spending by about $40 million.

The biggest move up in the top 20 this year was Celgene psoriasis fighter Otezla, which leapt into the No. 6 spot from No. 15, spending $139 million to post an increase of $61 million over 2017.

Meanwhile, Pfizer was the pharma parent with the most top-20 TV ads with five drugs on the list, along with Eliquis, the anticoagulant it co-markets with Bristol-Myers Squibb. Eli Lilly was next with three drugs in the top 20.

RELATED: Goodbye to Lyrica ads? Big TV spender drops off top 10 list in October

Notable departures among the top 20 year-over-year included GlaxoSmithKline’s Breo, which dropped spending from $103 million to $23 million as its next-generation sibling COPD drug Trelegy, a three-medication combo versus Breo’s two medicines, hit the TV market in the fall. 

Also missing among the leaders was Bristol-Myers Squibb cancer fighter Opdivo, which dropped from No. 14 to No. 44. Two other cancer drugs, however, joined the list with big TV runs in 2018—Pfizer’s Ibrance and Eli Lilly’s Verzenio. Merck’s cancer drug Keytruda continued its TV spending mostly on pace at No. 8 on the list, but it did drop spending by $20 million for the year, according to iSpot data.

Overall, there were actually fewer drug brands on TV in 2018 than there were the previous year, with 66 branded pharma drugs spending at least some money on national TV advertising in 2018 compared with 73 the year before, according to iSpot data.

See the full list of the top 20 TV ad spenders below, courtesy of

1. AbbVie’s Humira: $375 million

2. Pfizer’s Lyrica: $213 million

3. Pfizer’s Xeljanz: $209 million

4. Eli Lilly’s Trulicity: $183 million

5. Bayer and Johnson & Johnson's Xarelto: $143 million

6. Celgene’s Otezla: $139 million

7. Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Eliquis: $136 million

8. Merck’s Keytruda: $107 million

9. Pfizer’s Ibrance: $92 million

10. Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly's Jardiance: $86 million

11. Otsuka and Lundbeck's Rexulti: $84 million

12. Eli Lilly’s Taltz: $83 million

13. Eli Lilly’s Verzenio: $80.4 million

14. Pfizer’s Prevnar 13: $79.9 million

15. Pfizer’s Eucrisa: $79.7 million

16. Sunovion’s Latuda: $78 million

17. Novo Nordisk’s Victoza: $78 million

18. AstraZeneca’s Farxiga: $75 million

19. Amgen’s Enbrel: $70 million

20. Novartis’ Cosentyx: $64 million