Ethics Schmethics from Profit Hungry Pfizer Pharmaceutical

NBN’s passions run deep but even we wondered why every time we saw the Lipitor television ad with Dr. Robert Jarvik, our blood started boiling.

“When diet and exercise aren’t enough, adding Lipitor significantly lowers cholesterol,” Jarvik spins is his folksy, aw shucks kind of way, while touting his credentials as the inventor of the artificial heart.

Usually halfway through the this ad, we’d start cursing at the TV, and giving Jarvik a middle fingered salute, getting so loud (even for us) that on one occasion we were told to take a time out or leave the room.

Isn’t a doctor working as a pitchman a huge, big ass, Mount Everest sized, conflict of interest?  Of course, we think direct to consumer drug advertising should be prohibited (as it is in Europe) but this was worse. At least the <a href=”; target=”_blank”>Lunesta butterfly </a> Lunesta butterfly isn’t claiming to be an expert in anything.  Turns out we weren’t the only ones who smelled something rotten.

As reported in the New York Times turns out Jarvik is less a doctor these days and more of an engineer. While he has medical degree, Jarvik is not currently licensed to practice medicine, nor is he a cardiologist.

Furthermore Lipitor ads aired in 2006 featured a stunt double posing as Jarvik rowing a scull boat.  While it looks like Jarvik rowing, the actual the man rowing was Dennis Williams, whom the Times reported was selected for the commercial because of his Jarvik-like size and the fact that both he and the doctor had receding hairlines.

The Times piece cited, Dr. David J. Triggle, a pharmacologist at SUNY Buffalo and a frequent writer on drug advertising.  “It’s sending a rather dishonest message—that he [Jarivk] himself taking Lipitor is healthy enough to row up and down whatever stream he was rowing.  Since he used a body double, that’s dishonesty.”  Adding to the chicanery is the fact that Jarvik, is, in the words of a colleague quoted in the Times, “about as much an outdoorsman as Woody Allen.”.

Lipitor is the world’s number one selling prescription drug, with sales totaling $12.7 billion in 2007.   It is also under increasing competition from new cheaper, generics.  According to the reports in the Times Pfizer spent over $250 million dollars on marketing the drug, including $1.35 million dollars for two years of promotion by Jarvik.

Kudos to Congressman John Dingell, for initiating the hearings into the misleading advertisements.  The committee will be looking into other ads such as the one showing Jarvik (or is it) and his son (or is it) jogging through a park.

Meanwhile Tara Parker Pope, the Times health columnist reported that the actual benefits of statin drugs in prolonging ones’ life is increasingly in doubt.

Ahhhhhhhh, breathe deep and smell the manure folks.  Its getter thicker and thicker as it seems that pharma’s big push for bigger profits is putting more and more of us at risk, unless of course, you’re a stockholder.


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