Pharmaceutical brands posted a 41.2% increase in measured ad spending for the first half of 2006, to $1.54 billion, according to TNS Media Intelligence data aggregated by Advertising Age.

Lunesta, a sleep aid marketed by Sepracor, accounted for much of that increase, vaulting from the 227th spot in 2005 to No. 37 this year, up 289%, with $162 million in ad spending for the first six months of this year. Ambien, a rival product marketed by Sanofi-Aventis, showed similar gains, up 102.5%, with $113.8 million in advertising support.

But consumers apparently were not swayed by the six-month advertising push for sleep remedies. They were more depressed than sleepless, judging by the top 10 online search terms for pharmaceutical products in July, according to Hitwise. Lexapro and Cymbalta, both antidepressants, were the top two brand names consumers searched for that month. According to the TNS data, Lexapro’s ad spending did not make the list of the top 200 brands, while Cymbalta, which gained approval from the Food and Drug Administration last year, ranked 198th, with $50.1 million in measured ad spending for the first half of 2006.

Even without heavy advertising support, consumers still have to check with their doctors before they can get a prescription for what ails them. And physicians need time to learn about the risks and benefits that come with each new drug before they are besieged by patients. Eight out of 10 doctors surveyed by MedPanel in August favored a moratorium on advertising new drugs to consumers, which is one of the guidelines worked out between the Pharmaceutical Research and Marketing Association trade group and the FDA last year.