1. Humira

Humira
For years, Humira has been far and away the most advertised drug in the U.S., but 2019 topped all previous years. (AbbVie)

1. Brand: Humira
Company: AbbVie
What is it: anti-TNF monoclonal antibody
2019 spend: $577.3 million
2018 spend: $507.6 million

For years, Humira has been far and away the most advertised drug in the U.S., but 2019 topped all previous years. AbbVie increased spending on Humira advertising by $70 million, an increase of 14% over 2018, according to Kantar Media.

The anti-inflammatory Humira is also the top-selling drug in the U.S.—and the world, for that matter. Is there a connection between the aggressive ad push and revenues? Maybe. It’s almost impossible to directly connect any advertising to sales no matter what the industry, but a look across other industries shows similar correlations.

Top-selling soda brands Coca-Cola and Pepsi spend billions (yes, that’s a “b”) to market branded fizzy waters, while the world’s top-selling household product companies Procter & Gamble and Unilever also drop billions pushing brand-name detergents, diapers and beauty products.

RELATED: AbbVie pumps the brakes on Humira TV spending—but still takes December's top spot

Like those big consumer spenders, AbbVie has now poured billions into Humira advertising over its more than 10 years on the market. Its spend consistency is notable: Drugs often drop on and off FiercePharma’s monthly tally of TV ad spending, but Humira has been No. 1 or No. 2 on the list for every month of the four years FiercePharma has tracked it via iSpot.tv real-time ad data.

Humira is approved across nine indications, but it spends its ad budget in three general categories: rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, and ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. 

In 2019, AbbVie added an umbrella ad that spanned all indications, focusing on a revamp in the formulation that made the injection citrate-free. Citrate is used as a buffer to stabilize the drug and has been associated with pain on injection.

The big question is whether AbbVie’s heavy lean on TV for Humira—17 different commercials ran last year, according to iSpot.tv data—will change as biosimilar competitors prepare to enter the market in 2023. After all, the immunology drugmaker has already ramped up ads for Humira heir Skyrizi in psoriasis. The company will also be working on absorbing Allergan after its $63 billion acquisition closes, and that’s another marketing-driven company.

RELATED: AbbVie's first campaign for Humira follow-up Skyrizi hits TV airwaves

More likely, AbbVie will stay the course. Blockbusters that advertise heavily tend to keep on promoting right to the end of exclusivity. See previous example billion-dollar pharma brands including Lyrica, Cialis, Viagra, Lipitor and Nexium. Humira isn’t a mass-market brand relying on volume sales like those examples, but the high price of the biologic still makes advertising worthwhile because even a smaller number of prescriptions are profitable.

1. Humira