Lilly takes the lead in DTC ad spending, surpassing Pfizer

Eli Lilly ($LLY) has overtaken Pfizer ($PFE) in the pharma advertising steeplechase. Cegedim Strategic Data reports that Lilly's spending on direct-to-consumer advertising surpassed Pfizer's in April. And that's a big change: Pfizer has been DTC's big spender for some time.

But that all changed when megablockbuster Lipitor went off patent at the end of November. As the Pharma Marketing Blog points out, Pfizer spent $220 million on advertising its top-selling cholesterol drug last year. That's almost 25% of its overall $900 million in DTC spending.

After that, Pfizer's advertising spiked to almost $90 million the next month, as the company fought to keep as many patients on the branded drug as possible. Then, Pfizer's DTC budget dropped to about $70 million in January and to just over $50 million in February. In April, Pfizer spent a tad more than $40 million. According to our own ranking of top-advertised drugs during the first quarter, Lipitor dropped to $44.5 million for the entire period, down from $71.9 million last year.

Meanwhile, Lilly's DTC budget has been zigzagging around $40 million per month since last July until April, when it ticked up to almost $50 million, and pulled past Pfizer into 1st place.

Lilly has two heavily advertising drugs still on patent--the antidepressant Cymbalta and the erectile dysfunction treatment Cialis. If its ad spending so far this year is any indication, those two drugs will still see heavy rotation on TV and in print. Our top 10 ranking shows that Lilly plowed $46.7 million into Cymbalta during the first three months of 2012 and put another $42.3 million behind Cialis.

Last year, those two drugs were in 2nd and 3rd place, ad budget-wise. The Pharma Marketing Blog predicts that they'll move up to 1st and 2nd. Stay tuned.

- read the Pharma Marketing post

Special Report: Top 10 Drug Advertising Spends -- Q1 2012

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