Drug firms boost DTC ad spend in '06

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Led by the sleep aid category, drug firms upped consumer advertising by a healthy margin in 2006, data from advertising intelligence firms show.

Through October, the spending level for all prescription drugs was on pace for an 8% hike over the first 10 months of 2006, to $3.82 billion from $3.5 billion, according to data from Nielsen Monitor-Plus. The surge was hottest within the top-10 prescription brands, which showed a 36% hike to $1.39 billion from $1.02 billion.

Figures from TNS Media Intelligence, another research company, reflect a rise of 10% among the top 10, from $1.09 billion to $1.2 billion during the year's first nine months vs. the previous year's. As of press time, data for the full fourth quarter were not available, both data firms said.
Driving the increase was Lunesta, which looks set to unseat Nexium as the top DTC spender for the year. Sepracor had increased its DTC outlay for Lunesta by about $120 million or about 70% through October as compared to the same period in 2005, per Nielsen. That translates into $291 million invested to promote Lunesta.

AstraZeneca cut DTC spending in support of Nexium 8% to $165 million for the first 10 months of 2006 vs. the same period in 2005. Some of it may have gone toward a 10% rise in spending for Crestor, as AZ sought to maintain the cholesterol drug's profile despite safety issues.

Sanofi-Aventis boosted DTC promotion for its Ambien franchise from $2 million to $160 million to support the launch of a new extended-release version, Ambien CR. The Merck/Schering-Plough joint venture spent 26% more on DTC for Vytorin, perhaps in a bid to capture market share after Merck's Zocor went off patent. And Plavix marketers Sanofi and Bristol-Myers Squibb amped up spending by 15% to lessen the impact from the brief generic clopidogrel launch.

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