Congress Asks Pfizer: Why Is Dr. Jarvik Qualified To Pitch Lipitor?

Dr. Robert Jarvik is the inventor of the Jarvik artificial heart, right? You know that because he’s the pitch-man for Lipitor, a heavily advertised cholesterol drug. Have you ever stopped to ask yourself why inventing an artificial heart qualifies the man to pitch a drug?

From Reuters (emphasis ours)

A U.S. House of Representatives committee said on Monday it was probing Pfizer Inc (PFE.N: Quote, Profile, Research) advertisements that feature heart specialist Robert Jarvik pitching its blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor.

Democrats on the House Energy & Commerce Committee said they were worried the widely seen commercials may mislead consumers. The probe is part of an investigation into celebrity endorsements of prescription medications, the lawmakers said.

“We are concerned that consumers may misinterpret the health claims of a prescription drug promoted in a direct-to-consumer advertisement utilizing a celebrity physician,” top committee Democrats said in a letter to Pfizer.

The letter also said the lawmakers were “concerned that Dr. Jarvik’s qualifications may be misinterpreted in this advertisement campaign given that he may not be a practicing physician with a valid license in any state.

Really? No license to practice medicine? The WSJ Health Blog explains:

NBC’s science guru Robert Bazell wrote last year that while Jarvik is an M.D., he doesn’t have “the strongest credentials.” His grades as an undergrad at Syracuse University weren’t good enough for U.S. med school, so he attended the University of Bologna in Italy, leaving after two years. In 1976, Jarvik graduated from the University of Utah’s med school, but he never did an internship or practiced medicine, Bazell wrote.

…and of course here’s Pfizer’s response:

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.

That’s all well and good, but can someone explain why Sally Field is qualified to shill Boniva? Is it because she has bones?

Congress to Pfizer: Why is Robert Jarvik the Lipitor Man? [WSJ Health Blog]
U.S. House panel says probing Pfizer Lipitor ads [Reuters]