Drugmakers again boost DTC spending, to $5.6 billion in 2016

By:  Kevin McCaffrey

Spending on direct-to-consumer pharmaceutical ads rose 9% to $5.6 billion in 2016, in part fueled by a 16% boost in spending from Bristol-Myers Squibb, according to data from Nielsen.

Pfizer and Bristol-Myers Squibb again took the two top spots among drugmakers, spending $1.1 billion and $458 million, respectively, on DTC ads. AbbVie, Eli Lilly, and Allergan rounded out the top five DTC spenders. The Nielsen figures include business to business, outdoor, cinema, television, magazine, newspaper, and radio media spend, but not digital.

Bristol-Myers Squibb doled out more than $170 million on its immuno-oncology therapy Opdivo alone in 2016, the only cancer drug among Nielsen's top 20 DTC spenders. It's traditionally rare for pharma companies to use DTC to promote oncology brands, but the Opdivo campaign along with a competing campaign for Merck's Keytruda, that launched in January, may be changing that paradigm. 

The other three brands with the most spending in 2016 were: Eli Lilly's Trulicity for diabetes, and Pfizer's Lyrica for diabetic nerve pain and fibromyalgia, and Xeljanz for rheumatoid arthritis.

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