Sleep drugs keep DTC ad spending up to $4B

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Thank goodness for insomnia.

Despite the end of marketing for drugs such as Vioxx and Celebrex; the decision by TAP Pharmaceuticals to eliminate TV advertising on Prevacid; and drastic spending reductions on Lipitor, Crestor, Levitra, Zoloft and Viagra, the pharmaceutical industry somehow remains on par for another $4 billion year for direct-to-consumer advertising.

How? The introduction of Sepracor's blockbuster sleep-aid medication Lunesta, and the subsequent jump in spending by competitor Ambien, from Sanofi-Aventis, along with boosts in spending for mid-level brands.

"Despite everything that has happened, from the backlash [by the public] to the threat of FDA regulations, there is a market for this advertising," said Jon Swallen, senior VP-director of research for TNS Media Intelligence. According to TNS, the industry spent $3.8 billion last year on DTC. Through the first six months of this year, drug makers spent nearly $2 billion for a projected 2005 total of almost $4 billion.

`Subtle shift'

"You're seeing the subtle shift that everybody thought was coming," said one pharmaceutical company executive, "and that is a lesser number of $100 million spenders but more of the second- and third-tier type spends."

Mr. Swallen agreed. "While brands like Vioxx and Viagra were notable because of the kind of advertising weight they held, the Rx category was always deeper than those brands," he said. "With some of those brands effectively embargoed from advertising, it has created opportunities for mid-size brands to get in the game."

Vioxx and Celebrex were the two most notable omissions this year. Vioxx was taken off the market completely; Celebrex was ordered by the FDA to cease all marketing. The two anti-arthritis treatments combined for $178 million in measured media in 2004 and nothing this year.

Other reductions include Crestor, projected to spend $50 million this year, down from $206 million last year, and Levitra, which spent $47 million through the first six months of 2005, for a projected $94 million, down from $143.6 million in total spending last year.

Viagra's projected outlay of $47 million is way down from the $83 million it spent in 2004. Pfizer's Lipitor, which received $110 million last year, is projected to end 2005 with a little more than half that, $64 million. And Zoloft's spending is projected to spend less than half its $81 million budget of last year.

Lunesta

But being able to stay on last year's pace, or actually slightly ahead, is due in large part to the emergence of Lunesta. The sleep aid has been 2005's biggest blockbuster and is expected to finish out the year with about $80 million in spending. Ambien marketer Sanofi-Aventis has responded with $54 million in spending through June of this year.

Other notable increases include Abbott Labs, which is projected to spend $82 million on Humira this year, up from $47.6 million for all of last year. Allergan's Restasis, for chronic dry eye syndrome, is expected to be $58 million in 2005, up from $21.3 million in 2004. GlaxoSmith-Kline has hiked outlays on asthma medication Advair and will likely end up with $146 million in spending this year, up substantially from $87 million in 2004. GSK is also looking at projected spending of $146 million on Flonase, a jump from $118 million in 2004. Merck/Schering Plough has spent $89 million through June of this year on Vytorin for a projected $188 million, a huge increase over last year's $50.4 million.

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