Iâ€™m not fond of drug companies advertising on TV. â€œAsk your doctorâ€?, they say, â€œif Haldol might be right for you.â€? Then cut to Britney Spears talking about how sheâ€™s studying economics at her local community college since she started taking Haldol.
It wasnâ€™t Britney, but another celebrity, who was appearing on a drug commercial: Robert Jarvik, a pioneering researcher of the artificial heart. I thought it was unbecoming that such an illustrious doctor was using his prestige to push one particular cholesterol drug. There are several commonly used ones, and other treatments for high cholesterol. Shouldnâ€™t the doctors give some thought to prescribing the best treatment for the individual patient?
Well, thatâ€™s no way to make a profit. Weâ€™re all supposed to â€˜ask our doctorâ€™ to prescribe whatever we saw on TV. But Dr. Jarvik wonâ€™t be appearing any more.
From the business section of the New York Times…
Under criticism that its ads are misleading, Pfizer said Monday it would cancel a long-running advertising campaign using the artificial heart pioneer Dr. Robert Jarvik as a spokesman for its cholesterol drug Lipitor. Pfizer has spent more than $258 million advertising Lipitor since January 2006, most of it on the Jarvik campaign, as the company sought to protect Lipitor, the worldâ€™s best-selling drug, from competition by cheaper generics.
But the campaign had come under scrutiny from a Congressional committee that is examining consumer drug advertising and has asked whether the ads misrepresented Dr. Jarvik and his credentials. Although he has a medical degree, Dr. Jarvik is not a cardiologist and is not licensed to practice medicine.
One television ad depicted Dr. Jarvik as an accomplished rower gliding across a mountain lake, but the ad used a body double for the doctor, who apparently does not row.
This really bites. Heâ€™s not only not a cardiologist, but he didnâ€™t even do his own rowing. So letâ€™s look at his great accomplishmentâ€“the invention of the artificial heart.
In a letter to Pfizer in August 2006, three former colleagues of Dr. Jarvikâ€™s at the University of Utah complained that the ads erroneously identified Dr. Jarvik as â€œinventor of the artificial heart.â€? That distinction, they said, should go to Dr. Jarvikâ€™s mentor, Dr. Willem J. Kolff, and his associate, Dr. Tetsuzo Akutsu. Pfizer subsequently changed its ads to identify Dr. Jarvik as the inventor of the â€œJarvik artificial heart,â€? but Dr. Jarvikâ€™s former colleagues, members of a large team that worked on the heart, were not entirely satisfied…
I wonder why?
Next time you see your doctor, you wonâ€™t have time to ask about the stress of working in primary care. If you did, they might start telling you about it, and that would take hours. But if they donâ€™t give you this weekâ€™s miracle pill every time you see them, they are doing their job. Drug company advertising is not an unbiased source of information. Youâ€™ll get more objectivity talking to other people who have the same concerns, or checking internet forums. All the drug company wants you to ask your doctor is, â€œGive me that drug, now.â€? And if they got caught in sloppy marketing this time, theyâ€™ll be more subtle the next time.