- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 26, 2008


When “diet and exercise isn’t enough,” Pfizer still wants consumers to ask their doctor about Lipitor — just not Robert Jarvik.

Yesterday, Pfizer took the doctor and inventor of the artificial heart off the mound as pitchman for the world’s best-selling medication, after his credentials — in medicine and in his own exercise regimen — came under fire.

In the ads, which began their heavy rotation on TV and in print in 2006, Mr. Jarvik touts the benefits of Pfizer’s cholesterol-lowering drug. As of yesterday, Mr. Jarvik’s photo still appeared on Pfizer’s Web site advertising the drug.

But House Democrats said the ads could be misleading to consumers because Mr. Jarvik appeared to be giving medical advice, even though he is not licensed to practice medicine. While Mr. Jarvik holds a medical degree, he did not complete the certification requirements to practice medicine.

Democratic Reps. John D. Dingell and Bart Stupak, both of Michigan, said yesterday Pfizer made the right decision.

“When consumers see and hear a doctor endorsing a medication, they expect the doctor is a credible individual with requisite knowledge of the drug,” Mr. Stupak said.

In January, the lawmakers asked Pfizer to hand over all records of its contract with Mr. Jarvik as part of a larger investigation into celebrity endorsements of prescription medicines.

Lipitor ad scrutiny intensified earlier this month when the New York Times reported that Pfizer used a stunt double in an ad in which Mr. Jarvik appeared to be rowing. The company replaced that ad with one showing Mr. Jarvik jogging with his son.

“You add up the medical questions and the rowing questions, and it’s a pretty damning indictment,” said Bill Trombetta, a professor of pharmaceutical marketing at St. Joseph’s University. “It made sense for them to cut their losses.”

Lipitor posted sales of more than $12 billion last year.

Pfizer president of operations Ian Read said “the way in which we presented Dr. Jarvik in these ads has, unfortunately, led to misimpressions and distractions.”

Mr. Read said the company will provide “greater clarity in our advertising regarding the presentation of spokespeople.”

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