DTC spending continues to be very strong in 2016 based on a number of new brand advertisers. I fully expect the 2016 spending to top 2015 by 5% or more. That would put the total at about $5.5 billion. Driving much of the growth in 2016 will be diabetes drugs.
The number of diabetes advertisers used to be relatively small and often confined to print publications. Now many diabetes brands are all over television. There have been several new categories of diabetes drugs launched in the past few years. One is long lasting insulin for both Type 1 and Type 2 patients. Toujeo and Tresiba are the big spenders. There are also new injectables that are non-insulin that control blood sugar. Victoza is the big spender here with Trulicity in the mix. A whole new category of pills that help the kidneys excrete excess sugar burst on the scene in the past few years. Farxiga, Invokana, and Jardiance are all heavy spenders. Another new category of pills help regulate insulin after meals and these recent entrants include Onglyza, Tradjenta, and Januvia.
Why are Diabetes drugs investing so much and launching so many new brands? The market is huge at 29 million people with diabetes. With aging baby boomers swelling the population, this market will receive heavy investment in R&D and marketing. We are also seeing an emphasis on early diagnosis by alerting people with blood sugars over 100 that they have pre-diabetes.The American Diabetes Association says there are 86 million adults with pre-diabetes. While most do not receive treatment they are increasingly made aware of the risks of developing diabetes. That early awareness should help the adoption of advertised drugs as those pre-diabetics evolve to diabetes.
There are many products on the horizon that will be launched that improve blood sugar as companies are looking for new pathways to control blood sugar. A company in Israel is developing an oral insulin which would be a welcome alternative to injections. There are many companies working on devices to test blood sugar non-invasively to replace the finger sticks.
While many DTC critics say drug companies push drugs in categories where treatment may be overused, this is hard to argue in diabetes. The CDC reports that only 57% of diagnosed diabetics have numbers under control (HbA1c under 7). Even small changes in blood sugar have a significant impact reducing complications. The advertising for all these drugs emphasizes control of blood sugar. The challenge for all these drugs is how to say control in advertising that differentiates one brand from another. With so many ads on mass media this is a category that needs continuous innovation in creative development.
Because of the significantly higher incidence among African Americans and Hispanics diabetes DTC has many opportunities for multicultural campaigns. Given the many new types of diabetes treatment pathways there is a need for education on which might be right for patients. That means fertile ground for the use of DTC for years to come. Even the DTC critics should welcome all the awareness created by diabetes DTC advertisers. The estimated annual healthcare cost of diabetes is $245 billion in America. Telling people about blood sugar control serves both societal and drug company objectives in controlling the numerous devastating complications.