AbbVie, Pfizer drive 2017 pharma TV ad spending above 2016's tally

watching tv
National TV advertising among pharma companies rose in 2017 to $3.45 billion. (Image: iStock/AndreaObzerov)

Think you saw a lot of TV ads for drugs in 2017? That's because you did. Pharma spending on national TV ads for 2017 climbed even higher than in 2016—by more than $330 million. The total tally was $3.45 billion, compared with $3.11 billion in 2016, according to data from real-time TV tracker

AbbVie antiinflammatory Humira led the way with $341 million spent on 16 commercials across three of its different indications: arthritis, psoriasis, and Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. However, the drug fell short of topping its 2016 total of $344 million. Broken out by indication, AbbVie spent $179 million on arthritis, $114 million on Crohn's and colitis, and another $48 million on psoriasis Humira commercials.

Another repeat for 2017 at No. 2 was Pfizer’s Lyrica, which spent more than $216 million for the year, although it also fell behind its 2016 total of $221 million. Pfizer also took third place with Xeljanz, spending $166 million and moving up from the fourth spot when it spent $139 million last year.


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All of the top-10-spending drugs broke the $100 million mark for TV media spending in 2017, according to iSpot, while only nine did last year.

New to the top of the list was cancer-fighting drug Keytruda from Merck; it joined rival Opdivo from Bristol-Myers Squibb, which was No. 13 on last year’s list. Both landed in the top 20, although Keytruda’s $127 million put it at No. 6, versus Opdivo’s $82 million at No. 14.

Gone from the top 20 are former reliable TV-spending erectile dysfunction drugs Cialis from Eli Lilly and Viagra from Pfizer. Both halted TV advertising earlier this year—Viagra in May and Cialis at the end of August—facing the loss of patent exclusivity and new competition.

There were also more drug brands on TV last year. In all, 73 branded pharma drugs spent at least some money on national TV advertising, an increase from the 65 brands that spent in 2016, according to iSpot data.

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

1. AbbVie’s Humira: $341 million
2. Pfizer’s Lyrica: $216 million
3. Pfizer’s Xeljanz: $167 million
4. Eli Lilly’s Trulicity: $145 million
5. Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb's Eliquis: $142 million
6. Merck’s Keytruda: $127 million
7. Bayer and Johnson & Johnson's Xarelto: $120 million
8. Eli Lilly’s Taltz: $116 million
9. GlaxoSmithKline’s Breo: $103 million
10. Novartis’ Cosentyx: $100 million
11. Novo Nordisk’s Victoza: $98 million
12. AstraZeneca’s Farxiga: $87.4 million
13. Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly's Jardiance: $86.9 million
14. Bristol-Myers Squibb: Opdivo: $82 million
15. Celgene’s Otezla: $78 million
16. Gilead’s Harvoni: $75 million
17. Allergan’s Linzess: $73 million
18. Novartis’ Entresto: $71 million
19. Otsuka and Lundbeck's Rexulti: $69 million
20. Johnson & Johnson’s Invokana: $63 million

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