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Lawmakers Scrutinize Lipitor TV Ads

January 08, 2008
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House Democrats are investigating whether consumers are being misled by advertisements for Lipitor, featuring the world-renowned inventor of an artificial heart.

In the ads, which began their heavy rotation in 2006, Dr. Robert Jarvik talks about the benefits of Pfizer''s cholesterol-lowering drug, the world''s best-selling medication.

According to the Associated Press, Michigan Reps. John Dingell and Bart Stupak sent a letter to Pfizer recently, questioning Jarvik''s credibility as a medical expert.

A spokesman for Dingell on Monday could not confirm whether Jarvick is certified to practice medicine, but cited media reports that he never took an internship or practiced medicine.

Jarvick was not reachable by phone Monday evening.

According to the Web site of his company, Jarvik holds a degree in engineering from New York University and a medical degree from the University of Utah.

After earning a medical degree, physicians must complete a series of tests to earn certification to practice medicine.

Pfizer spokesman Chris Loder said Jarvik''s presence in the advertisements is meant to educate consumers on the importance heart health.

Congressmen Dingell and Stupak''s letter requests the company turn over all records of the company''s contract with Jarvik and any information on his professional qualifications. The lawmakers said the action is the first step in a larger investigation celebrity endorsements of prescription medicine.

Pfizer enlisted former senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole to pitch Viagra in 1999 and before that rival Merck & Co. Inc. paid Olympic skating champion Dorothy Hamill to appear in ads for Vioxx. Companies have scaled back on such endorsements in recent years amid questions of whether actors, athletes and politicians have any business hawking medicine

When Pfizer first launched the Jarvik advertisement, many analysts saw it as a more sober approach to marketing.

Lipitor sales were $13.6 billion in 2006.
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