Pfizer pulls Jarvik spots, vows more "clarity" on spokespeople

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Pfizer pulled Lipitor ads featuring Dr. Robert Jarvik and vowed that it is “committing to ensuring greater clarity in the roles and responsibilities of its spokespeople in its consumer advertising and promotion.”

In a statement, Pfizer's Ian Read, president of worldwide pharmaceutical operations, defended Jarvik, the campaign and DTC but said: “Nevertheless, 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.”

“Going forward, we commit to ensuring there is greater clarity in our advertising regarding the presentation of spokespeople,” Read said, adding that future campaigns, “to be launched in several weeks,” will continue to stress the importance of patients talking to their doctors.

Kaplan Thaler Group handles consumer advertising on the brand. From January, 2006 through September, 2007, Pfizer spent $210 million on Lipitor DTC ads, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

The ads became the target of a congressional investigation last month, as Michigan Democratic Representatives John Dingell and Bart Stupak demanded that Pfizer fork over all records pertaining to the campaign, including financial records, contractual arrangements, contracts, emails, correspondence and scripts for TV and print ads featuring Jarvik. Dingell, chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, and Stupak, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, took particular interest in Jarvik's professional qualifications, taking issue with the fact that he is neither a licensed nor a practicing physician, and his compensation.

The resulting news coverage, including the revelations that Jarvik was promised $1.35 million for his participation in the campaign and that a stunt double was used to portray him rowing across a lake, was embarrassing for Pfizer.

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