Goodbye, Dr. Jarvik

HeartWire, the news service of, posted the following report:

Pfizer pulls Lipitor ads featuring Dr Robert Jarvik in HeartWire

New York, NY - After a series of questions and attacks over its choice of Dr Robert Jarvik to endorse Lipitor in a series of TV commercials, Pfizer has announced that it is withdrawing the ads. As previously reported by heartwire, Jarvik invented the first artificial heart, but he is not a cardiologist, nor does he hold a medical license—factors that drew criticism from detractors and made him and Pfizer a target of a US House Committee on Energy and Commerce investigation into celebrity endorsements in direct-to-consumer advertisements.

In a January 2008 statement, committee chair Rep John D Dingell (D-MI) observed: "Dr Jarvik's appearance in the ads could influence consumers into taking the medical advice of someone who may not be licensed to practice medicine in the United States. Americans with heart disease should make medical decisions based on consultations with their doctors, not on paid advertisements during a commercial break."

Complaints about Jarvik went up a notch this month when the latest ad in the series depicted the inventor rowing a racing scull across a lake, despite the fact that Jarvik himself does not row and the commercial used a body double.

This is typical pharmaceutical industry sleight-of-hand, now you see it, now you don't, that has come to define their policies. And this is just the stuff that comes to light because of some obvious blunders. We can only begin to imagine what sorts of other shenanigans have been swept under the rug, especially adverse effects of drugs that never made it to the light of publication.

Is this just another example of how direct-to-consumer advertising has backfired? I now have patient after patient tell me that they have been so overwhelmed and fed up with TV and magazine ads for drugs that they

Other media outlets have reported that Jarvik was guaranteed $1.35 million for the ads and that Pfizer spent $258 million on Lipitor advertisements between January 2006 and September 2007.