Friday, February 8, 2008

You know those annoying presciption drug ads? Turns out they're dishonest, too

In my household we have a joke about television's "dead hour," which is that period of time after the evening news ends but before the prime-time shows begin. If you're lucky, you can catch Jeopardy. But most often you have a choice of Entertainment Tonight, Wheel of Fortune, or Everybody Loves Raymond reruns.

Generally, this is when I go wash the dishes and put in a load of laundry.

But if you are watching t.v. during this time, you no doubt have seen the ads for various prescription drugs. You see that you can fix your blood pressure, insomnia, cholesterol, erectile dysfunction, rheumatoid arthritis, incontinence, etc. with one simple pill. Such healthy, active people in those ads! They hike, they birdwatch, they garden, ride bicycles, they row. And you can, too! "Here's to men!" Just "Ask your doctor if [PRESCRIPTION DRUG NAME HERE] is right for you!"

Well, now it turns out at least one of those ads is a tad bit dishonest. From the New York Times:

Dr. Robert Jarvik is best known for the artificial heart he pioneered more than a quarter-century ago. Since then he had toiled in relative obscurity — until he began appearing in television ads two years ago for the Pfizer cholesterol drug Lipitor.

The ads have depicted him, among other outdoorsy pursuits, rowing a one-man racing shell swiftly across a mountain lake. “When diet and exercise aren’t enough, adding Lipitor significantly lowers cholesterol,” Dr. Jarvik says in the ad.

A Congressional committee, concerned that the Lipitor ads could be misleading, has said it wants to interview Dr. Jarvik about his role as the drug’s pitchman.

Some of the questions may involve his credentials. Even though Dr. Jarvik holds a medical degree, for example, he is not a cardiologist and is not licensed to practice medicine. So what, critics ask, qualifies him to recommend Lipitor on television — even if, as he says in some of the ads, he takes the drug himself?

And, for that matter, what qualifies him to pose as a rowing enthusiast? As it turns out, Dr. Jarvik, 61, does not actually practice the sport. The ad agency hired a stunt double for the sculling scenes.

“He’s about as much an outdoorsman as Woody Allen,” said a longtime collaborator, Dr. O. H. Frazier of the Texas Heart Institute. “He can’t row.”


No comments: