In particular, the focus is on Robert Jarvik, premiere pitchman for Pfizer's Lipitor. In a letter to Pfizer ceo Jeff Kindler, John Dingell, the Democrat from Michigan who chairs the Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Bart Stupak, also a Democrat from Michigan who chairs the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, have decided to open an investigation into the use of celebrity endorsements in DTC ads.
"We are concerned that consumers might be misled by Pfizer's television ads for Lipitor starring Dr. Jarvik," Dingell says in a statement. "In the ads, Dr. Jarvik appears to be giving medical advice, but apparently, he has never obtained a license to practice or prescribe medicine." Says Stupak: "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."
Scrutiny toward celebrity ads is nothing new. The FTC launched a review nearly a year ago. And Jarvik's credentials have been questioned for some time. He does come off rather smoothly in the ad, though, doesn't he? (For the Pfizer statement, look below the video clip and click on 'read more').
"Pfizer takes its responsibility with regard to direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising very seriously. Our foremost concern is that the tone and content are appropriate for the intended audiences, and that it will ultimately result in encouraging valuable patient/physician dialogue that can lead to appropriate treatment.
"Pfizer recognizes the important role physicians play in helping patients better manage their health. Dr. Jarvik is a respected health care professional and heart expert. Dr. Jarvik, inventor of the Jarvik artificial heart, knows how imperative it is for patients to do everything they can to keep their heart working well. Furthermore, the advertising advises consumers to speak to their physicians about their heart health. The communication in the advertising helps educate consumers that it is important to keep the heart healthy including, if necessary, using medications that have been proven to maintain heart health."