With Novartis circling, Lilly touts Verzenio's ability to help cancer patients make memories in TV ad

Eli Lilly is throwing more money behind breast cancer drug Verzenio as it prepares to fend off a challenge from Novartis. Having seen growth hit 100% late last year, the Big Pharma has released a TV spot to push the message that Verzenio can help patients make new memories every day.

Ads for Verzenio are a frequent sight on TV screens, with the estimated $111.8 million that Lilly spent on spots last year landing the drug in the 10 top most promoted products. Lilly has continued the promotional push in 2023. The “School Play” Verzenio spot was the second most seen pharma TV ad at the 65th Annual Grammy Awards early this year, and Lilly rolled out a fresh video earlier this month.

The latest ad opens with a gray-haired Black woman sitting on a sofa looking at a photo album. As the camera zooms in and flips to an over-the-shoulder shot, a voice-over by the woman says that “living with metastatic breast cancer means I cherish my memories.” We see a photo of the woman in the album.

Yet, the woman wants to do more than look back. The next page of the album says “future memories,” and, as the voice-over explains, the woman looks “forward to the chance to make new [memories] every day with Verzenio.” After the woman turns to the next pages of the album, we see the Verzenio logo on one page and a photo with her walking arm in arm with a man on the opposite page.

The camera zooms into the photo, which becomes a video that shows the woman and man walking to an alumni event on a sunny day. As that happens, the voice-over changes to a different woman who says Verzenio is “proven to help you live significantly longer when taken with fulvestrant” before going on to list the side effects associated with the treatment.

As the side effects are read out, we see the breast cancer patient hug an old friend at the alumni event. In subsequent scenes, the woman presents several generations of people with barbecued food at an outdoor gathering and, wearing fairy wings, puts down another tray of food at a Halloween event before embracing a child. The ad ends with a New Year’s Eve celebration as the video turns back into photos.  

The scenes look like they could take place across most of the year, with an alumni event in the spring giving way to a summer barbecue, a fall Halloween celebration and finally a New Year’s Eve event. That time span is aligned with the benefits of Verzenio, which extended survival by an average of 9.4 months when added to fulvestrant, sold as Faslodex by AstraZeneca, in a clinical trial.

Lilly is continuing to push Verzenio as it seeks to maintain its recent momentum, which saw sales rise by 100% in the fourth quarter and 60% over the first three months of 2023. Novartis poses a threat to the momentum, with its recent clinical data on Kisqali suggesting the drug can challenge Verzenio in the adjuvant setting and target a broader population of patients than Lilly’s blockbuster.