Pharma TV ad spenders blow up December with spendiest month of 2020

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Pharma TV advertisers ended the year on a high note, with top 10 brands spending more than $217 million. (Getty Images)

December went out with a bang for pharma brands on TV as top advertisers shelled out $217 million in the biggest spending month of the year.

From reliable TV advertiser AbbVie and Humira at more than $45 million to a relative newcomer in Novo Nordisk's diabetes med Rybelsus at $21 million, the top 10 pharma brands poured money into national TV ads in December, according to data from real-time TV ad tracker iSpot.tv.

Merck & Co.’s Keytruda, Pfizer’s Xeljanz and Pfizer and Bristol Myers Squibb’s Eliquis rejoined the list in December. Keytruda edged out competing cancer immunotherapy combo Opdivo and Yervoy at $18.5 million in spending across four TV ads. Bristol Myers Squibb spent just a bit less, $17.7 million in December, on the commercial it launched for the Opdivo/Yervoy duo treatment in the fall.

Keytruda had begun upping its TV media in September in its first national TV ad spending since April 2019. Two of the new black-and-white ads talk about “the moment” people first find out they have cancer. Both report that Keytruda has been approved to treat 16 types of advanced cancer and is being studied in hundreds of trials.

December’s record-breaking spending topped November’s $204 million among the top 10 brands, following similarly robust October spending of $187 million and September spending of $182 million.

1. Humira
Movement: Stayed the same
What is it? AbbVie anti-inflammatory drug
Total estimated spending: $45.4 million (up from $40.3 million in November)
Number of spots: Four (Two for arthritis/psoriasis, two for ulcerative colitis/Crohn's)
Biggest-ticket ad: “You Inspired Us: May Be Able to Help” (est. $17.2 million)


2. Xeljanz
Movement: Not on the list last month
What is it? Pfizer oral rheumatoid arthritis therapy
Total estimated spending: $27.6 million
Number of spots: Three
Biggest-ticket ad: “Needles: Sewing” (est. $10.5 million)


3. Dupixent
Movement: Stayed the same
What is it? Regeneron and Sanofi's atopic dermatitis and asthma treatment
Total estimated spending: $23.4 million (up from $21.3 million in November)
Number of spots: Six (Two for atopic dermatitis, four for asthma)
Biggest-ticket ad: “Roll Up Your Sleeves: Financial Situation” (est. $8.2 million)


4. Ozempic
Movement: Up from No. 5
What is it? Novo Nordisk GLP-1 diabetes med
Total estimated spending: $21.9 million (up from $18.3 million in November)
Number of spots: One
Biggest-ticket ad: “Photographer”


5. Rybelsus
Movement: Up from No. 6
What is it? Novo Nordisk oral GLP-1 diabetes med
Total estimated spending: $21.3 million (up from $17.8 million in November)
Number of spots: Two
Biggest-ticket ad: “Wake Up” (est. $15.4 million)


6. Keytruda
Movement: Not on the list last month
What is it? Merck’s PD-L1 cancer fighter
Total estimated spending: $18.5 million
Number of spots: Three
Biggest-ticket ad: “The Moment: (est. $12.1 million)


7. Opdivo and Yervoy
Movement: Down from No. 2
What is it? BMS dual-immunotherapy regimen
Total estimated spending: $17.7 million (down from $27.9 million in November)
Number of spots: One
Biggest-ticket ad: “Combination Immunotherapy”


8. Enbrel
Movement: Down from No. 7
What is it? Amgen’s TNF inhibitor to treat autoimmune diseases
Total estimated spending: $16.3 million (down slightly from $16.8 million in November)
Number of spots: One
Biggest-ticket ad: “Erin & Margo”


9. Eliquis
Movement: Not on the list last month
What is it? Pfizer and Bristol Myers Squibb next-gen anticoagulant
Total estimated spending: $13.7 million
Number of spots: Four
Biggest-ticket ad: “What’s Next: Still on the Road” (est. $6.7 million)


10. Jardiance
Movement: Down from No. 9
What is it? Eli Lilly and Boehringer Ingelheim SGLT2 diabetes treatment
Total estimated spending: $11.7 million (down from $14.2 million in November)
Number of spots: Four
Biggest-ticket ad: “Rocket Fair” (est. $4.3 million)