Bristol-Myers Squibb plans to spend more on DTC for Opdivo

Bristol-Myers Squibb plans to spend more money on direct-to-consumer advertising for its immuno-oncology drug, Opdivo, company executives told investors during a first-quarter earnings call.

BMS CFO Charles Bancroft said the drugmaker was increasing its guidance for marketing, selling and administrative expenses to reflect additional DTC spend.

In an investor note, Evercore ISI analyst Mark Schoenebaum played down the possibility of a significant commercial investment, however, saying that the company has already indicated that it believes it is  appropriately commercialized for upcoming indication expansions.

The drugmaker kicked off the DTC campaign, Longer Life, for Opdivo in late September. The advertisement showed the benefits of Opdivo as light cast on buildings, showcasing the drug's benefits, like survival advantage compared to chemotherapy. It's one of only a few cancer drugs to be advertised in this format.

BMS CEO Giovanni Caforio has defended the use of direct-to-consumer advertising for a drug only approved for the second-line setting, saying, “there is pessimism for many patients...and a number of patients — particularly in the second-line — are not being treated as effectively as they should [be].”

Opdivo saw sales of $704 million for the first quarter of 2015, up 48% from last quarter, beating analyst consensus estimates of $587 million. The DTC campaign launched during the company's fourth quarter of 2015.