Pfizer Yanks Lipitor Ad

Under Congressional Pressure, Drug Maker Says Dr. Jarvik Spot Was Misleading

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WASHINGTON (AdAge.com) -- Pfizer said today it will pull its Lipitor ad featuring Dr. Robert Jarvik, and promised to do a better job of clearly presenting spokespeople in future advertising.
The House energy and commerce committee suggested that the ad presents Dr. Jarvik as a medical expert when most of his career has involved the invention of the artificial heart.
The House energy and commerce committee suggested that the ad presents Dr. Jarvik as a medical expert when most of his career has involved the invention of the artificial heart.

The company announced its decision today under pressure from leaders of the House energy and commerce committee.

Ian Read, Pfizer's president-worldwide pharmaceutical operations, said in a statement that while the Dr. Jarvik ad offered valuable and medically accurate information on the risks of Lipitor and how it can help patients with high cholesterol reduce their risk of heart attack, its presentation was misleading.

'Misimpressions and distractions'
"The way in which we presented Dr. Jarvik in these ads has, unfortunately, led to misimpressions and distractions from our primary goal of encouraging patient and physician dialogue on the leading cause of death in the world -- cardiovascular disease," he said. "We regret this. Going forward, we commit to ensuring there is greater clarity in our advertising regarding the presentation of spokespeople in the statement."

The Lipitor ads from Kaplan Thaler Group feature Dr. Jarvik saying he's a user of the product and apparently rowing a boat. It turned out the rowing was done by a stunt double, and Dr. Jarvik didn't start taking Lipitor until after he was hired by Pfizer. The House committee also has suggested that the ad presents Dr. Jarvik as a medical expert when most of his career has involved the invention of the artificial heart.

Committee Chairman John D. Dingell, D-Mich., and Rep. Bart Stupak, chairman of the panel, praised the drug maker's decision.

"Pfizer's decision was a wise one, and I am pleased our investigation prompted the removal of Lipitor ads featuring Dr. Jarvik," Mr. Dingell said. "We trust that Pfizer is sincere in its commitment to 'greater clarity' in its advertising. My colleagues and I look forward to meeting with Pfizer's management team to discuss their plans related to direct-to-consumer advertising."

Mr. Stupak said Pfizer was doing "the right thing," but "we will continue to investigate the deception that occurs in direct-to-consumer advertising of medications, including Pfizer's Lipitor campaign. We plan to meet with Dr. Jarvik, collect all of the documents we've requested and closely review the facts. Drug companies should know that they will be held accountable for the representations made in their ads."
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