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Pfizer pulls Lipitor ads with Dr. Robert Jarvik

/ Source: The Associated Press

Pfizer Inc said on Monday it was voluntarily withdrawing advertising for its Lipitor cholesterol drug featuring Dr. Robert Jarvik, inventor of the Jarvik artificial heart, because its ads led to “misimpressions.”

The ads involving Jarvik had come under scrutiny following an column written by NBC's Robert Bazell in March 2007. The column recounted Jarvik's past failures and pointed out that while he earned a medical degree, he didn't take an internship or practice medicine.

In January, the Committee on Energy and Commerce of the U.S. House of Representative began investigating celebrity endorsements of prescription medicines.

Democratic lawmakers had voiced concern that Jarvik’s qualifications were misrepresented in widely seen television commercials touting the blockbuster drug. They said he seemed to be dispensing medical advice even though he is not a practicing physician.

On his Web site, Jarvik describes himself as a medical scientist who has worked in the field of artificial hearts for 36 years and does not practice clinical medicine or treat individual patients.

“The way in which we presented Dr. Jarvik in these ads has, unfortunately, led to misimpressions and distractions from our primary goal of encouraging patient and physician dialogue on the leading cause of death in the world — cardiovascular disease. We regret this,” Ian Read, Pfizer’s president of worldwide pharmaceutical operations, said in a statement.

“Going forward, we commit to ensuring there is greater clarity in our advertising regarding the presentation of spokespeople,” Read said.