Wednesday, January 2, 2008

The Jarvik-Lipitor Connection

Since we are on the subject of Lipitor (as several recent posts have been), I am again grateful to Eric Jackson, PharmD, for pointing out to me the MSNBC coverage of Pfizer's extensive direct-to-consumer ad campaign for that drug, featuring as its pitchman Dr. Robert Jarvik:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/16039753/

MSNBC's science correspondent, Robert Bazell, makes a couple of observations. First, it is somewhat odd that Jarvik is being used as the "celebrity" in this ad, since by many standards he'd be seen as a total failure. Bazell reviews the trouble-laden history of the Jarvik 7 artificial heart which was introduced with tremendous fanfare and eventually dropped because of the multiple complications it caused and the miserable lives experienced by the few in whom it was implanted. (In my day job, medical ethics, we occasionally look back at those surgeries and wonder about the process of informed consent and ethical review, that led to those patients being victimized in the way that they were.) "Failure" is probably too harsh given the inherent uncertainties of medical research, but anyway you get the idea.

Second, and probably more pertinent, Bazell reviews Jarvik's training. He initially had inadequate grades to get into a US medical school, and finally did graduate with an MD, but never did an internship or residency and has never cared for patients as a physician. He's a biomedical engineer, pure and simple. So his ad is really quite reminiscent of the old ads featuring "Dr. Marcus Welby," the actor Robert Young, who said, "I'm not a doctor but I play one on TV..."

1 comment:

MarilynMann said...

Jarvik gives me the creeps.