DTC Ad Spending Nears $2B in First 9 Months of 2000

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Spending on direct-to-consumer prescription drug ads totaled $1.9 billion from January to September 2000, according to recent estimates by marketing consultant Scott-Levin, Newtown, PA.

Pharmaceutical companies spent the most money advertising antihistamines, which represented $197.2 million of all DTC drug ad spending in the nine-month period, according to the study released last month. COX-2 inhibitors, a class of arthritis medication, came in second with $192.8 million.

Drug giant Merck, Whitehouse Station, NJ, led DTC ad spending with $138.3 million for its Vioxx COX-2 inhibitor. Spending on ads for Prilosec ulcer treatment, produced by AstraZeneca, Wilmington, DE, totaled $99.7 million.

Other top spenders include:

o $84.9 million by Schering-Plough, Kenilworth, NJ, for its antihistamine drug Claritin.

o $73.5 million by GlaxoSmithKline, London, for its antidepressant drug Paxil.

o $67.7 million by Pfizer Inc., New York, for its Viagra medication.

Scott-Levin surveyed 4,000 consumers and 3,000 physicians in conjunction with the spending study. Fourteen percent of the doctors surveyed said they had noticed an increase in discussion with patients about Claritin, while 18 percent said they noticed an increase in discussions about Vioxx.

However, the number of consumers surveyed who said they remembered seeing a print ad for Claritin -- 17 percent -- equaled the number who said they remembered seeing a print ad for Allegra, a competing antihistamine produced by Aventis, Parsippany, NJ. Thirty percent of consumers surveyed said they had seen a print ad for Celebrex, a Vioxx rival produced by Pfizer. Twenty-one percent of consumers surveyed said they had seen a Vioxx print ad.

Last year, Scott-Levin predicted that DTC spending on drug ads would top $2 billion in 2000 and would set a record. DTC ad spending on Vioxx also led in Scott-Levin's last study, which measured the first four months of 2000. Spending on Vioxx DTC ads during that period totaled $67 million.

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