January 7th, 2008

US House Panel Says Probing Pfizer Lipitor Ads

By Lisa Richwine
Reuters

A U.S. House of Representatives committee said on Monday it was probing Pfizer Inc advertisements that feature heart specialist Robert Jarvik pitching its blockbuster cholesterol drug Lipitor, worried that consumers may be misled by its health claims.

The House Energy & Commerce Committee said the probe was part of an investigation into celebrity endorsements of prescription medications.

“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,” Democratic lawmakers said in a letter to Pfizer.

The letter 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.”

The ads tout Jarvik as the inventor of the Jarvik artificial heart. Pfizer promotes Lipitor for lowering cholesterol and reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke for patients with several risk factors for heart disease.

A Pfizer spokeswoman could not be reached immediately for comment.

A man who answered the phone at Jarvik Heart Inc in New York, where Jarvik serves as president and chief executive, said he had no comment about the claim that Jarvik may not be a practicing physician. He said the company might provide comment later. 

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