I’m Not a Doctor, But I Play One on TV

I’m not fond of drug companies advertising on TV. “Ask your doctor�, they say, “if Haldol might be right for you.� Then cut to Britney Spears talking about how she’s studying economics at her local community college since she started taking Haldol.

It wasn’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. Shouldn’t the doctors give some thought to prescribing the best treatment for the individual patient?

Well, that’s no way to make a profit. We’re all supposed to ‘ask our doctor’ to prescribe whatever we saw on TV. But Dr. Jarvik won’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 world’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. He’s not only not a cardiologist, but he didn’t even do his own rowing. So let’s look at his great accomplishment–the invention of the artificial heart.

In a letter to Pfizer in August 2006, three former colleagues of Dr. Jarvik’s at the University of Utah complained that the ads erroneously identified Dr. Jarvik as “inventor of the artificial heart.â€? That distinction, they said, should go to Dr. Jarvik’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 “Jarvik artificial heart,â€? but Dr. Jarvik’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 won’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 don’t give you this week’s miracle pill every time you see them, they are doing their job. Drug company advertising is not an unbiased source of information. You’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, “Give me that drug, now.� And if they got caught in sloppy marketing this time, they’ll be more subtle the next time.

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One response

  1. i AM APPALLED AT THE DRUG COMPANIES WHO ADVERTISE ON TELEVISION AND RADIO ABOUT THESE EXPENSIVE NEW DRUGS AS THEY BECOME ONTO THE MARKET AND THE SERIOUS SIDE EFFECTS OF SOME OF THEM. OUR HEALTH CARE HERE IN THE USA IS GOING DOWN THE TUBES AS WE SPEAK WHERE ALMOST 50 MILLION AMERICANS CAN NO LONGER AFFORD HEALTH CARE AND NOT ONLY DO THE ADULTS SUFFER BUT MORE IMPORTANT THE CHILDREN SUFFER MORE BECUSE THEY ARE NOT GETTING THE CARE THEY NNED WHILE GROWING TO BECOME ADULTS AND SOME OF THIS ACTION BY THE DRUG COMPANIES TO RAPE THE aMERICAN pUBLIC IN GREED FOR THE EXECUTIVES OF THESE DRUG COMPANIES IS UNCONSCIONABLE BY THESE PEOPLE. I BELIEVE THAT IT IS OUTRIGHT FRAUD TO CHARGE SOME OF THESE PRICES FOR DRUGS. tHERE IS NO NEED TO ADVERTISE FOR THESE DRUGS SO THE PRICE WOULD BE A LOT CHEAPER FOR THEM AND THE CITIZENS WHO CANNOT AFFORD THEM WOULD BE IN BETTER HEALTH IF THE PRICES WERE A LOT LOWER. tHE ADVERTISING GOES ON HERE SO THAT WE PAY FOR THE LOWER COST OF SOME OF THESE DRUGS IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES LIKE CANADA, UNITED KINGDOM AND ELSEWEHERE IN THE WORLD. mANY OF THESE SAME COMPANIES MANUFACTURER THE SAME DRUG WITH CHEAPER LABOR IN OTHER COUNTRIES AND THEN SHIP THE DRUGS BACK TO THE UNITED STATES PUTTING americans out of jobs that pay decent wages. ALL IT IS, IS CORPORATED GREED FOR THE EXECUTIVES AND STOCK HOLDERS AND NO CARE ABOUT THE CONSUMERS THAt have to buy there drugs. There is nothing wrong with the generic equivalent of any drug as it does the job it is supposed to do as when I was in the military and at the VA Medical Centers in order to save money they use the generic equivalent of the most of the drugs they use.

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