Diabetes DTC advertising skyrockets as Novo, Sanofi and Lilly vie for share

Diabetes drugmakers are feeling the pressure from price-conscious payers and a slew of new competition. Maybe that's why consumer advertising in the category is expected to hit a high this year--and to drive overall pharma ad spending to boot.

Not only will diabetes ads reach new heights as 2016 wears on, advertising in the field will also continue to rise for the foreseeable future, says DTC Perspectives CEO Bob Erhlich.

Millions upon millions of dollars are going into DTC ads for diabetes meds, with spending fueled by a renewed push for awareness, an increase in patient diagnoses and a wave of new drugs and devices to treat the disease. In fact, FiercePharmaMarketing reported in January that diabetes category ad spending on TV doubled in 2015. 

This year's an even bigger show. Ehrlich says he expects diabetes DTC to drive much of the growth in overall pharma ad spending in 2016, with an increase of at least 5%. Given the multiple new launches in a variety of drug classes, spending will only continue to go up, Erhlich says.

“The explosion will continue for the foreseeable future as diabetes is such a huge health issue," Ehrlich said in an email interview. "The spending will depend on new brand entries and patent life. We also have multiple entrants in each class of drug so the competitive forces will keep spending high."

New drugs to market include new SGLT2 inhibitors like Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly's Jardiance, which launched in 2015, joining AstraZeneca’s Farxiga which launched in late 2014. That sudden crowding fueled ad spend for those two brands, but it also meant Johnson & Johnson’s first-to-market SGLT2 drug Invokana had to market aggressively to keep up.

Then there are the newer GLP-1 diabetes drugs, like Lilly's GLP-1 drug Trulicity. It's advertising heavily as it goes head-to-head with established daily GLP-1 meds such as Novo Nordisk’s dominant Victoza and GlaxoSmithKline’s Tanzeum. Those older drugs have fired back with their own marketing campaigns, and with Sanofi's new Adlyxin coming on line, GLP-1 ads are likely to continue multiplying.

Add to that new basal insulin drugs like Sanofi's Lantus follow-up Toujeo, which has had a big TV ad push this year and last. And don’t forget the drugs not yet approved--Novo and Sanofi each have GLP-1/insulin combos waiting for FDA decisions, for two. Plus the many devices, including pens, blood monitors and emerging technology that will have to advertise to get noticed.

See what Ehrlich means?

While all the new meds are good news for TV and print media coffers, it makes for a crowded and sometimes confusing market, where it can be difficult for a brand to make an impression on consumers.

“Drugs need to differentiate by seeing all the ads from the consumer perspective,” he advised. “That means finding a way through creative device or copy points that can break through the clutter. Companies need to test their diabetes ad in a realistic cluttered category environment.”

The positive part of the ad glut is the value provided in getting information to diabetes sufferers as well as raising awareness of a still under-diagnosed disease, Erhlich said.

“While many DTC critics say drug companies push drugs in categories where treatment may be overused, this is hard to argue in diabetes. The CDC reports that only 57% of diagnosed diabetics have numbers under control (HbA1c under 7). Even small changes in blood sugar have a significant impact reducing complications. The advertising for all these drugs emphasizes control of blood sugar,” he wrote in his post.

- check out DTC Perspectives post

Related Articles:
New brands, stepped-up spending drive big TV-ad outlay for diabetes in 2015
Report says U.S. could save billions by getting diabetes patients to take their meds
Diabetes sales rocket toward $60B, with Novo and Lilly's GLP-1s first in line for growth
American Idol star joins Eli Lilly's diabetes kids camp efforts