The top 10 most-advertised prescription drug brands

Pharma ad spending soared to $4.5 billion in 2014, backing branded drugs in levels not seen since the recession, with particular emphasis on blockbusters--and wannabes. Drugmakers poured $3.4 billion into advertising spending on the top 10 drugs, which accounted for 75% of the total spent on all advertising of pharmaceuticals, according to Nielsen data. The big push at the top resulted in 5 drugs surpassing the $200 million mark in spending in 2014, versus just two that crossed that threshold in 2013.

Not surprisingly, household names ruled the list, with two erectile dysfunction treatments in the top 10.

Eli Lilly's ($LLY) Cialis took over as the No. 1 spender while its chief competitor, Pfizer's ($PFE) Viagra, remained close by at No. 4. AbbVie's ($ABBV) Humira, which was the top spender in 2013, was one of the few that saw a decrease in spending, albeit minor, resulting in a drop to No. 5 as other brands loaded up on paid media.

New to the top 10 this year were Sunovion Pharmaceutical's Latuda at No. 6 and Pfizer's Chantix at No. 10. Latuda pushed a new indication, while Pfizer continued an aggressive marketing march for its anti-smoking pill, amid and despite controversy.

Dropping out of the top 10 were AstraZeneca's ($AZN) Crestor, and Bayer and Johnson & Johnson's ($JNJ) Xarelto. Crestor is up against its patent loss in the U.S. next year, while Xarelto faced a rash of mass tort lawsuits with law firms spending millions--$22.5 million from July through December last year--to lure clients.

The Nielsen data did not include Internet advertising, but eMarketer predicted that pharmaceutical and healthcare companies would spend $1.4 billion on paid digital media in 2014, with $373 million of that spent on mobile marketing.

Kantar Media, which also tracks paid media ad spending, recently released its top 5 drug spenders, and its results do include digital advertising--which it totaled at $246 million in 2014, down 4% from 2013.

Nielsen and Kantar both totted up the same top 5 ad spenders, just in slightly different order. See below for Nielsen's top 10; Kantar ranked the top 5 in the following order: Cialis ($272 million), Humira ($259 million), Lyrica ($246 million), Viagra ($232 million) and Eliquis ($221 million).

-- Beth Snyder Bulik (email)

The top 10 most-advertised prescription drug brands