Pfizer pulls Jarvik ads for Lipitor

Twitter icon
Facebook icon
LinkedIn icon
e-mail icon
Google icon
Robert Jarvik. Source: Wall Street Journal  

Nearly two months after Congress questioned the use of artificial heart inventor Robert Jarvik as the spokesperson for Pfizer’s Lipitor, the drug maker has voluntarily withdrawn the advertisements. The company had been running the ads for several years.

Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering drug, earned New York-based Pfizer nearly $13 billion last year. The Jarvik ad was part of a campaign to boost sales before Pfizer’s exclusive patent expires in 2011.

Congressman John Dingell, D-Mich., chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, noted in a Jan. 7 letter to Pfizer that Jarvik, who has never obtained a license to practice or prescribe medicine, appears to be giving medical advice.

Jarvik received his medical degree in 1976 from the University of Utah, but he did not complete his internship or residency, and hence, has never been licensed to practice medicine.

Jarvik defended himself on the Jarvik Heart website with a statement, which, in part, says, “I am not a celebrity. I am a medical scientist specializing in advanced technology to treat heart failure who understands that no one in his or her right mind would want an artificial heart if it could be avoided with preventive medicine.”

Pfizer's Ian Read, president of world-wide pharmaceutical operations, said in a statement that the company is committed to ensuring “there is greater clarity in our advertising regarding the presentation of spokespeople."

In related news, an appellate court in the Netherlands ruled that the basic patent covering atorvastatin—the active ingredient in Lipitor—would be infringed by a competitor product from generics manufacturer Ranbaxy. The decision prevents Ranbaxy from launching its drug before Lipitor’s basic patent (EP 247,633) expires in November 2011, according to Pfizer press release.

Ranbaxy can seek to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court of the Netherlands.