Friday, October 20, 2006

Lipitor's Jarvik: Fop or Flop?

Is Dr. Robert Jarvik, inventor of the Jarvik artificial heart, a fop? Or is he a flop?

Dr. Jarvik appears in all the recent Lipitor ads such as the print ad shown below, which I scanned from the recent issue of the The New Yorker.


I was struck by the TV version of this ad where Dr. Jarvik strolls "foppily" through and around a hologram -- or it seems like one -- of a heart.

When I saw that natty suit, just the right amount of cuff showing, the PURPLE tie and matching handkerchief in the jacket pocket, and his peculiar way of walking, I thought immediately "gay!" Not that there's anything wrong with that! (I also thought maybe the color scheme was more appropriate for Nexium -- the Purple Pill.)

But "fop" may be a better term to describe Jarvik in these ads. I found this definition of fop at answers.com:
fop (fŏp) n: A man who is preoccupied with and often vain about his clothes and manners
Dr. Jarvik, dressed up in that purple tie ensemble, would be a perfect picture of a fop to include next to the definition in a dictionary.

Is there anything wrong with being a fop? You betcha! There is something odd about a foppy image of a doctor in a DTC ad. I just think it goes over like a lead balloon.

Inventor of an artificial heart or not, what guy wants to be examined by a doctor who looks like this! Maybe it's an OK look for an OB/Gyn, but not a cardiologist -- which, next to a brain surgeon, is the most manly medical specialty.

So much for Jarvik the fop, but what about Jarvik the flop?

I ask that because recently I've seen a new version of the TV spot where Jarvik is dressed in a sports coat and open shirt. No purple tie -- no tie all. I took the following photo off my TV:


Much better, don't you agree? And the blue shirt is true to the Lipitor brand color scheme.

Perhaps Pfizer CEO Jeffrey Kindler, who does not look like a man who has many fops as friends, saw the purple tie ad on TV and that's why it was pulled.

Jarvik was touted as the first "real" doctor to be used in a drug ad -- as opposed to fake doctors like the one suggested by Mandy Patinkin (who played Dr. Jeffrey Geiger on CBS's Chicago Hope TV show) in the Crestor ads.

I am wondering which costs more -- fake doctor or real doctor? Looking at the choice of clothes, I'd say Jarvik costs more than Patinkin.

But it's all good. According to Robin Koval, president of Kaplan Thaler, the agency Pfizer hired to create the Jarvik ads, "We think Dr. Jarvik is an amazing spokesperson, [as the inventor of the artificial heart] he's beyond a celebrity spokesperson." Yeah, way more expensive and certainly more foppy!

27 comments:

  1. Anonymous11:22 AM

    With the "science" backing Lipitor usage looking increasingly frayed, I'm not surprised that Phizer is paying top $$$ to pull out those big guns.

    Frankly, for a while, I was treating about 1 case of statin poisoning per month. Nasty stuff.

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  2. Anonymous3:51 PM

    Jarvik is neither a fop nor a flop. Glib headline, but doesn't mean much. Not the guy's fault some casting director put him in a suit that doesn't fit with an ugly tie.

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  3. Anonymous10:09 AM

    Okay, so you've picked on Dr. Jarvik, the Beaver, and even Abe Lincoln.

    Are there any pharmaceutical marketing ads that you DO like and that you DO think are effective? Inquiring blog readers' minds want to know!

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  4. Thanks for that comment.

    Of course there are ads that I do like. But since these get so much attention in the trade publications and at award dinners, etc., I don't feel that there is much I can add that has not already been said.

    What I find is that many journalists and trade publications cannot or will not say the Emperor has no clothes!

    I cannot tell you how often I've heard from industry professionals how much they appreciate and enjoy my commentary, primarly because they wish they could say it themselves.

    Meanwhile, I will try to insert at least some good examples of ads within context so that readers understand that I agree that is "good" as well as the "bad" and the "ugly" in this arena.

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  5. Anonymous7:25 PM

    I am offended by Dr. Robert Jarvik's claim to be the inventor of the artificial heart. It appears he's stretching the facts, perhaps due to what you alleged might be vanity. As a young medical student in the 1970s, he joined the research team on artificial organs at the University of Utah under Dr. Kolff. Dr. Kolff had convinced the inventor of a battery-powered artificial heart to donate his patent to the University. That man was Mr. Paul Winchell. Mr. Winchell invented the artificial heart in the 1950s and filed for a patent in 1961. Dr. Kolff requested he donate his research and the patent ten years later in 1971. Winchell was a pre-med student at Columbia at the time of his invention, but later dropped out. If you recognize his name, he earned his money for medical school through entertainment--as the famous Paul Winchell, with sidekicks Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff. I believe this is why Dr. Jarvik does not acknowledge Winchell as the original inventor. Jarvik used air compression in his version of the artificial heart, and did indeed create the first one for use in humans. Winchell didn't agree with the air compression design and kept trying to get the University researchers to consider batteries for power, so patients would not be tied to a compressor (about the size of a briefcase with tubes to the body). Kolff and Jarvik distanced themselves from Winchell, and as far as I can determine, have never credited Winchell for 1) inventing the first artificial heart, or 2) dontating his patent to the medical community for the benefit of the world. You can read Winchell's side of the story at his site, www.paulwinchell.com. One last note--it's interesting that Dr. Jarvik is now going public on a national scale only after Winchell died in 2005. Spread the truth. ~Kimn Gollnick

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  6. Anonymous11:23 PM

    WOWZIE WOO! the Anonymous blogger,Kimn Gollnick is ABSOLUTELY correct- its giving me goosebumps.How do I know?- I watched the Mike Douglas show-(what was I?- 15 at the time but to this day I recall what was said......) and he was doing a piece with Mr Winchell- the GREAT ventriloquist!!!- And it is absolutely true- Paul Winchell is the inventor of that device- and while its true Jarvik had something that was different- it truly wasnt much- NONE- REPEAT NONE of what he found was ever related or credited to Winchell and that to me- MR Jarvik- aint right Atall!!!!!!
    What i am amazed at is what this blogger also adds- that Jarvik is admitting something? after Winchells death- that stinks man- it sta hinx!!!-and after seeing this jackamo on TV for who? PFE- and gettin big moolas for it- it totally dismays me.
    It is even possible Jarvik saved lives before his invention with mainstream medicine as a doc.But if he had any sense of being a real doc he will tell the world the REAL DARN story!!!!!!!!!!!- How do i know its possible to save lives? I was an Eagle Scout that has a documented save from a drowning boy in 1971 and later I became a medic in CALIF. for 23 yrs in the early 80s and yes- I saved a few lives also.-But to credit those guys,along with Jarviks hunchback, I say bafooey and Winchell Should get accalades.!!!MANY!!!!!!and Ill bet Jarvik didnt have to overcome as many obstacles as Winchell-did u know Winchell was dyslexic?-
    So everytime u see that commercial- tell someone in the room- and tell Jarvik- when u can to either donate his gazillions to research,the Winchell family,rename the stupid device- with a new model- and to hit the pavement- along with that other joker- and tell the world the REAL truth- Mr Jarvik!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!- "I pity the Fool!!!!!!!!!!"
    ---Mr T~!!!!!!!!!!!!
    by BPriolo

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  7. Anonymous8:23 PM

    I definitely agree...not the part about him being a "fop" but the part where his way of talking and walking immediately made me think "he's so gay." It's not the suit, it's just his face!

    Before I heard him speak or saw him walk, just his eyes...told me he's gay. I have a pretty accurate gay-dar (radar).

    I found out that he's married, though, maybe he's an in-the-closet gay.

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  8. Anonymous11:22 AM

    Recently Dr Howard Torman has also been appearing in Viagra commercials, so I don't think that Jarvik is the first doctor to appear in an ad.

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  9. Which came first, the Jarvik or the Torman? It wouldn't be the first time -- according to the above comments -- that Jarvik claimed first place! Actually, I am just reporting what DTC experts have noted -- ie, that Jarvik was the first real doctor used in DTC ads.

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  10. Jarvik is a disgrace to medicine; a complete sell out; it very much makes me try to choose against prescribing Lipitor to my patients whenever possible.

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  11. Anonymous6:12 PM

    Jarvik has NEVER practiced medicine. He is an MD by title only. He cannot presribe medicines.
    Thus the commercials are deceptive and erroneous.

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  12. Anonymous6:15 PM

    Jarvik does not practice medicine. He is an MD in title only. He cannot prescribe even an aspirin.

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  13. Anonymous11:46 PM

    I am outraged and appalled by some of the negative comments left and the misinformation being posted.
    Why?
    My dad was an engineer/consultant for the Holter Company and Extracoporeal Medical Specialities and assisted these companies in the research/development of the artificial heart on the east coast.
    Growing up my dad would bring home movies showing surgeries of the articificial heart being placed in patents.
    If some of you are going to post, can you please do us all a favor and get the facts straight.
    Engage your brain before your typing!

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  14. Anonymous12:11 AM

    The latest advertisement with Jarvik, as I saw today, was most interesting.

    Jarvik (quote...as close as possible):

    "Lipitor is approved by the FDA, while many other medications for cholesterol are not".

    Duh?

    How stupid do they thing the public is? Well, the public is pretty damn stupid. All the younins' are watchin' Paula Abdul on the Bravo Channel.

    What is wrong with this picture is what is wrong with television.

    Next time you go to your doctor, take notes from commercials ( off of the script drug), and them pull them out of your wallet like your baby pictures...about 12-to35 feet long, and tell your doctor, "I was supposed to ask you if ____ is right for me". !!!!

    Nuff said. End it. dont do it. dont go there boy..but you should.

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  15. Anonymous10:16 PM

    It wasn't the dress that convinced me Jarvik was Gay. It was his style of voice. Let's face it, the guy is weak and flaming. (Might be something wrong with that). I'm surprised he has the guts to come out on public TV and expose himself. Gutsy perhaps.l

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  16. Jackson B10:18 PM

    Yeah the guy is obviously Gay. But something drove him to develop a simulated heart for humanity. Whatever his deamons are, let them drive him.

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  17. I am not going to mr. Jarvic as a doctor. he went to syracuse and had bad grades, couldn't get into med-school. and I'll tell you something else, i'd like to know a little more about that kid of his. all that i'm sure about that kid is that He can't run corr. ectly. For some strange reason the kid can't lifft his arms up. Very floppy indeed. (I think the son might be gay as well)

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  18. And here I thought Pfizer produced a new commercial just to show that Jarvik is a family man and therefore definitely not gay! I didn't even notice how his son was running -- I'll have to pay closer attention next time. The acorn doesn't fall far from the tree, eh?

    BTW, the neat alignment of his running shoes bothers me!

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  19. catherine monnett5:09 PM

    hey what's all the big deal about jarvik being gay or not? don't people have better things to worry about other than whether someone who has dedicated his life to saving lives is gay or not? personally i think he is sexy as hell and would love to meet or contact him. leave the man alone. have you done anything that is so successful in your lives?

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  20. Of course we have better things to do, but maybe not so many fun things as this! Besides, if you read up in the comment list, you'll see some who feel that Jarvik stole the idea for the "Jarvik" artificial heart from someone else (Mr. Paul Winchell). Whether or not this is true, I would not have learned of this controversy or the role that Winchell played in the development of artificial hearts.

    So you never know where something frivolous may lead.

    And you should have better things to do than to defend a TV commercial actor (I heard he doesn't practice medicine any more -- if he ever did!)

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  21. Anonymous2:54 AM

    hmmm, interesting. i would still say that robert jarvik is a fake doctor. firstly, he never completed a residency nor was ever licensed to practice medicine. in addition, from a reliable source, it may be that he was not allowed to proceed with becoming a full fledged physician due to issues regarding mistreatment of patients as a student. as for him being a scientist, there may be evidence that the jarvik heart wasn't his idea to begin with. as a student, jarvik worked with bill colfe (sp?) on the artificial heart. bill had a tradition of naming the current/updated model of the heart after the person who made a significant contribution. jarvik came up with just such a contribution which involved using a diaphragmatic membrane composed of thin layers of polymer with a graphite lubricant in between layers. again, there may be evidence that this idea actually came from nasa and was not rightly attributed to said organization. the heart was then named after him and he then tried to grasp all the publicity. he even went so far as to make known their work prior to its review in a professional scientific journal which is just bad form. in the end, the jarvik artificial heart was never his idea from the start as the project was ongoing when he joined.

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  22. Anonymous5:39 PM

    I think he passed it on to his son, as well. Watch the way the son runs during the commercials. Who runs like that? He looks like the lady on the Seinfeld episode who doesn't swing her arms when she walks!

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  23. Anonymous9:57 AM

    Jarvik is not a cardiologist, and I don't think you'll see any lipitor ad saying he is one. He finished medical school after struggling initially to be accepted by one, and received an MD. Afterwards he never did a residency, or even an intern year.

    So he is a "doctor" in the sense that he is involved with research (and has an MD, technically) and not because he is a clinician.

    I don't know the extent to which he was involved in this artificial heart (and by the way, how many people out there are walking around right now with a machine in their chest pumping blood instead of a heart? I bet the number is at or approaching zero)- but he is definitely not qualified to promote a cholesterol-lowering drug with this slight of hand that makes him look like a renowned cardiologist

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  24. As I wrote over at Pharma Blogosphere (see "'Round the Sphere: Christiane Truelove and the Jarvik Fop Flap" at http://pharmablogosphere.blogspot.com/2008/01/round-sphere-christiane-truelove-and.html):

    Speaking of using celebrities in DTC ads, Jarvik actually was MADE a celebrity in the public's eye BY the Lipitor ads. I mean, do you think Joe Sixpack ever heard of Jarvik BEFORE the ads aired? I don't think so. On the other hand, the Boniva commercials do not even have to mention Sally Field's name; everyone knows her! In other words, Pfizer CREATED the image of Jarvik as a world-renowned DOCTOR in the public's eye -- they even fooled an expert like Ehrlich into believing Jarvik was a practicing cardiologist who knows something about treating high cholesterol.

    BTW, even a layperson like Paul Winchell, the renowned ventriloquist, can invent an artificial heart, which he did BEFORE Jarvik did. In fact, the Winchell family claims that Jarvik STOLE Winchell's idea after forcing him to donate his patent to the University of Utah. Here's a comment I received to my October, 2006, post "Lipitor's Jarvik: Fop or Flop?" that first "outed" Jarvik as possibly a closet gay guy (not that there's anything wrong with that):

    I am offended by Dr. Robert Jarvik's claim to be the inventor of the artificial heart. It appears he's stretching the facts, perhaps due to what you alleged might be vanity. As a young medical student in the 1970s, he joined the research team on artificial organs at the University of Utah under Dr. Kolff. Dr. Kolff had convinced the inventor of a battery-powered artificial heart to donate his patent to the University. That man was Mr. Paul Winchell. Mr. Winchell invented the artificial heart in the 1950s and filed for a patent in 1961. Dr. Kolff requested he donate his research and the patent ten years later in 1971. Winchell was a pre-med student at Columbia at the time of his invention, but later dropped out. If you recognize his name, he earned his money for medical school through entertainment--as the famous Paul Winchell, with sidekicks Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smiff. I believe this is why Dr. Jarvik does not acknowledge Winchell as the original inventor. Jarvik used air compression in his version of the artificial heart, and did indeed create the first one for use in humans. Winchell didn't agree with the air compression design and kept trying to get the University researchers to consider batteries for power, so patients would not be tied to a compressor (about the size of a briefcase with tubes to the body). Kolff and Jarvik distanced themselves from Winchell, and as far as I can determine, have never credited Winchell for 1) inventing the first artificial heart, or 2) dontating his patent to the medical community for the benefit of the world. You can read Winchell's side of the story at his site, www.paulwinchell.com. One last note--it's interesting that Dr. Jarvik is now going public on a national scale only after Winchell died in 2005. Spread the truth. ~Kimn Gollnick

    BTW, I should note that the Lipitor ads are very careful to say that Jarvik invented the "Jarvik artificial heart" as opposed to any other type of "artificial heart." I bet the Pfizer lawyers were all over the ad agency on that point just to be sure that "Pfizer is not guilty of anything in a literal sense!"

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  25. Anonymous10:27 PM

    I think the blogger got it spot on - this Jarvik character is hiding something. And it's so sad to see the son running that way.

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  26. Anonymous4:43 PM

    Why all the fuss? You want to see perfect young actors endorsing products they never use? A complete fake?
    And why is it a problem that an MD active in research talks about benefits of a drug? That person actually knows more than a practicing physician. You think that an MD that prescribes aspirin on a daily basis would be more qualified? That he or she knows more that an MD scientist who really knows the scientific literature and actually discovered something?

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  27. Anonymous3:42 PM

    Jarvik is married to noted columnist Marilyn vos Savant, the woman who has the highest registered I.Q. in the world. She writes the "Ask Marilyn" column for "Parade" magazine, a column that is widely syndicated.

    She is usually very forthcoming with readers and their questions. However she never answered two letters I wrote to her, encouraging her and her husband to acknowledge Paul Winchell as being the prior inventor of the basic artificial heart.

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