Big spending from AbbVie, Pfizer pushes pharma's 2018 ad spend to $6.5B

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Pharma advertisers continued to spend big on media in 2018, led by AbbVie and Pfizer brands. (Alpha Stock Images)

Pharmaceutical ad spending continued its upward climb last year. Spending topped $6.46 billion in 2018, according to Kantar Media, for an increase of 4.8% over the previous year.

Who’s laying out the most cash on ads? No surprises here: Perennial list-topper Humira, the anti-inflammatory treatment by AbbVie, again led the list of top five brands tracked by Kantar. Its media spending rose to $487 million, an increase of 13% over the previous year.

In fact, the entire list of top five brands is an exact repeat of 2017's. Pfizer’s Lyrica came in second at $272 million, followed by the pharma giant's Xeljanz ($257 million) and Chantix ($212 million). Eli Lilly’s Trulicity took fifth place with $207 million spent. Kantar’s totals include all pharma media spending except social media.

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RELATED: March on: AbbVie, Pfizer hold their places atop pharma's TV ad spender list

However, the list will likely change for 2019 in at least one position. Pfizer has dramatically decreased ad spending on its pain med Lyrica, as it lost patent protection in 2018. Lyrica, which the FDA approved in 2004, was among Pfizer's best-selling products in 2017, with U.S. sales of $3.46 billion. Pfizer won FDA approval for Lyrica CR last year, and the extended-release once-daily tablet version could warrant some advertising, but it's unlikely to match Lyrica’s patent-protected heyday spending.

Pfizer also decreased spending on rheumatoid arthritis drug Xeljanz by 6% from 2017, while increasing smoking cessation drug Chantix spending slightly, up 2.5% over the previous year.

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

Pfizer was the only drugmaker on Kantar’s list of top 10 marketers, coming in at No. 7 in 2018. The company spent $1.52 billion, down 5% from the previous year. Overall, pharma ranked as the ninth-highest spending category, well behind consumer-leading spenders in retail, automotive, telecom and financial goods. For instance, retailers spent $17.8 billion and automakers spent $14.3 billion in ad dollars last year to attract customers.

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