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Dr. Jarvik Answers Critics of His Lipitor Pitch

Posted by Jane Akre
Wednesday, January 16, 2008 12:48 PM EST
Category: Major Medical, Protecting Your Family
Tags: Drug Products, FDA and Prescription Drugs, Medical Devices


dr. Robert Jarvik defends himself about his Lipitor ads while Congress investigates.


Dr. Robert Jarvik is known as the inventor of the artificial heart more than 20 years ago. 

More recently he’s known as the pitchman for Lipitor, a top-selling cholesterol-lowering drug.

Now Dr. Jarvik is known as the man congressional investigators want to talk to about his work for drug maker Pfizer, maker of Lipitor.

At $12 billion in sales a year, it’s the best selling drug in the world.

Dr. Jarvik tells the television audience in the ads, “I’m glad I take Lipitor, as a doctor and a dad.”

The problem is that Dr. Jarvik is not licensed to practice medicine and cannot prescribe medicine. He did go to medical school but chose science and research over becoming a practicing physician.

Robert Jarvik appeared on “Good Morning America” today to answer critics who say he should not be pitching a drug as a doctor who cannot prescribe medicine because it's misleading consumers.

Our ad campaign with Pfizer is an educational one,” he said on television Wednesday. “Lipitor is the most widely prescribed drug in the country. For every prescription there is a doctor writing it. It’s a huge vote of confidence.”

Jarvik says it’s clear he is not a practicing physician. He declined to say how much he’s made from the ads other than to say it would be “considered a lot by most people”.

Dr. Jarvik says he did take Lipitor before he began pitching for Pfizer. But lending his credibility to create the impression he is prescribing the drug is the question that Michigan Representatives John Dingell and Bart Stumpak want to explore further. 

In a letter to Pfizer, Dingell asks, “Is he entitled to appear here and prescribe or give the impression he can prescribe prescription pharmaceuticals for patients? I think the law in every state says no, he’s not, because he can’t prescribe medicine in any state we can find.”

The representatives want records that prove Jarvik takes or took the medication.

Pfizer responds that Dr. Jarvik is a professional who is well-respected and advises consumers to speak to their own physicians about heart health.

Celebrity product pitches are big business. Sally Field advertises Boniva, Sen.. Bob Dole voiced support for Viagra. Drug companies spend about $4.8 billion every year on advertising.

But using a doctor to pitch drugs may be an ethical line that shouldn’t be crossed.

“We’re looking to see if there is wrongdoing but also we’re looking to see if the law needs to be changed to give us a better level of protection for the consumers,” Rep. Dingell says.

Lipitor’s patent expires in 2010 and Pfizer does not have a replacement ready to market.  #




Anonymous User
Posted by Marcia
Wednesday, January 16, 2008 8:25 PM EST

I think a more important question is why Pfizer took out 2 patents years ago to add COQ10 to Lipitor because as a statin drug it somehow removes the COQ10 the human body manufactures on it's own for muscles (of which the heart is one), but has never included the COQ10 in Lipitor. One of the warnings given when you get a Lipitor prescription concerns muscle pains and problems. Why are they hiding the fact they have an answer to this problem but have never admitted it.

Anonymous User
Posted by Zach
Saturday, January 19, 2008 1:47 PM EST

Someone should look into Medical School he attaende and the Medical Degree obtained. I undersatnd that it was obtained in Italy in less than 2 years? Does he infact even have a legitimate MD degree?

Anonymous User
Posted by Marcia E.
Saturday, January 19, 2008 6:52 PM EST

He went to school in Italy for two years after college in US (his grades were not good enough to get into US med school. He got an MD from University of Utah in 1976, after he came back. He was at Univ. of Utah working with a Dr. Kolff, who was developing dialysis machine and artifical heart.

Anonymous User
Posted by Michelle
Sunday, February 03, 2008 1:02 PM EST

I've watched Dr. Jarvik's add several times. He introduces himself as "the inventor of the artificial heart".

I don't believe I've heard Dr. Jarvik state once that he has prescribed Lipitor, but rather, states "talk to your doctor if ..." or "see your doctor...", "your doctor" being the operative word.

It is odd that you seize on the one statement, " I’m glad I take Lipitor, as a doctor and a dad.”. Well, even though the man is not a medical doctor and chose research over medicine, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that to design an artificial heart, you're just going to have to have considerable knowledge of the heart and its' function, this alone lends credence to Dr. Jarvik's endorsement.

I think the real problem is with people who have nothing better to do than sit around and pick apart tv advertisements.

Could this be the reason we're the laughing stock of the world, I mean after all, we are the people who voted george bush into office twice and have lived to regret it every single day.

Why don't you start worrying about the important things, like policies that brought our economy to its current state, work on resolving these important issues with the fortcoming election, and get off of tv adds for Lipitor.

Anonymous User
Posted by Michelle
Sunday, February 03, 2008 1:07 PM EST

Whoops ... I wish to edit ... add = ad !! Sorry, I don't see an option to edit my prior post.

Comments for this article are closed.

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