Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Dr. Jarvik, fired

Interesting article from the New York Times editorial page ( about Pfizer pulling their Lipitor ads featuring Dr. Robert Jarvik, one of the inventors of the artificial heart, as the public face of the cholesterol-reducing drug. Apparently the ads were, shall we say, not the most truthful.

I thought the ads were creepy from day one, and I'm glad they're gone. But I really wish we could go back to a time when prescription drugs couldn't be advertised on television. I really, really don't think it's good medical practice to create a demand for a prescription drug, and then have patients applying pressure to doctors to prescribe the magic pills.

The pharmaceutical business is dirty enough getting doctors to sign on and prescribe drugs for patients (anyone else wonder why so many drug reps are attractive young women?), but it's even worse when the demand for a drug is created not by it's medical effectiveness, but by seeing a TV ad for a guy throwing a football through a tire.

And, for those uber-free marketeers who think the government shouldn't have any business regulating business, here's another in those long line of pesky facts to show that consumers do, in fact, need and deserve some protection from the large corporations of the world.


February 27, 2008
Lipitor’s Pitchman Gets the Boot
Pfizer has been relying on the reputation of Dr. Robert Jarvik, one of the pioneers in designing artificial hearts, to bolster sales of Lipitor, its cholesterol-lowering drug. Now that a Congressional committee is investigating the credibility of those ads, the company has dropped Dr. Jarvik as its pitchman. It was a telling reminder that consumers, besieged by drug promotion ads on television and in print media, need to take what they see, hear and read with a very large grain of skepticism.

Pfizer turned to Dr. Jarvik because Lipitor, the world’s best-selling drug, is losing market share to Zocor, a generic competitor that costs a lot less. The company has spent more than $258 million advertising Lipitor since January 2006, most of it on the Jarvik campaign.

The trouble was, its very first TV commercial with Dr. Jarvik was downright deceptive. It suggested that he was rowing a racing shell across a mountain lake when he was not, in fact, rowing. A stunt double was at the oars. And while the commercials have Dr. Jarvik enthusing over Lipitor “as a doctor and a dad,” he is actually an inventor and researcher. He has a medical degree, but did not go through residency training and is not licensed to practice medicine or prescribe drugs.

The commercials also fail to note that Dr. Jarvik only started taking Lipitor about a month after he started touting its virtues under a contract that would pay him a minimum of $1.35 million over two years.

Rather than fight with the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Pfizer folded its tent and ended the ad campaign. The committee plans to continue its investigations of the Lipitor marketing campaign and of possible deception in other drug advertising aimed at consumers. We encourage the committee to delve deeply.

Meanwhile, drug companies would be wise to find pitchmen who have the credentials — and the athletic skill — to back up their claims, without having to rely on stunt doubles.

1 comment:

Gary Sharp said...

I have a friend who is looking for a skilled lipitor lawyer. Do you have any suggestions?