Thursday, January 24, 2008

Jarvik Falters in His Own Defense

While all of us bloggers were either blasting or defending Dr. Robert Jarvik for promoting Lipitor as an unlicensed "doctor," he appeared on the "Good Morning America" show to answer critics who say he should not be pitching a drug as a doctor who cannot prescribe medicine because it's misleading consumers.

He made some pretty revealing comments such as:
  • Lipitor ads are educational ("Our ad campaign with Pfizer is an educational one")
  • Prescribing Lipitor is good preventive medicine
  • Yet he didn't start taking Lipitor until AFTER he became a spokesperson
  • He wouldn't say how much he or his son got paid, but "it would be considered a lot by most people."
He began to falter when asked "What about generics? Why don't you mention generics?"

There was a long pause ... then the response:

Jarvik: "I don't know. We have talked about generics in the ads..."

"You have?"

Jarvik: "Well maybe there's an ad that hasn't come out yet that you haven't seen." (smirk) "So, we do address those issues."

New Lipitor-Jarvik Ads in the Works?
Either he doesn't know what he's talking about, lying, or leaked information of an upcoming "non-branded" TV ad by Pfizer that "talks" about generics. Or it could be a branded ad similar to the Celebrex ad that compares the Lipitor to a generic statin.

I wonder if he'll ever be called to testify before Congress? If so, he'll need better coaching!

See the video of the interview here: "Medical Pitchman Under Fire".


  1. Anonymous2:23 PM

    Pretty weak sauce from "Doctor" Jarvik there.

  2. Anonymous10:25 PM

    Jarvik actually didn't have any prep from Pfizer in this. He was called and Pfizer found out a few hours before he went on. He wanted to defend himself, and I can't blame him. He IS the inventor of the artificial heart.

  3. He's the inventor of the "Jarvik artificial heart," not "the" artificial heart. There were others before and after his.

    But, Pfizer didn't prep him -- how do you know BTW? -- then shame on Pfizer! It's hard to believe what with all the naming of the Lipitor brand he did!

  4. Anonymous9:20 AM

    I understand that most of the comment is about how he presented himself and I have not seen the interview, but why exactly should he be defensive?

    Is there something wrong with him being paid to endorse a product?

    Why is it his, or the companies job, to promote generics? (Especially when their positon is probably that they are not equivilent?)

    People become spokesmen on TV because they get paid. That is true if it is for oatmeal and it is true for medicines. In the best cases, the endorser also has a strong personal connection to the product and a passion or belief.

    Dr. Jarvik certainly has both a personal and proffesional connection, and passion, about heart disease. I have no reason to doubt that he believes that Lipitor will save lives.

  5. All good points and ones that Jarvik SHOULD have made, but didn't. Why don't you take a look at the video and then come back with more comments?

    BTW, re generics. He fell into a trap there and as far as PR goes, he seemed not prepared, which as I said is shame on Pfizer. I didn't criticize Jarvik for not talking about generics and I do NOT think pharma companies are obliged to talk about generics in their ads. However, as I said, there is a precedent for talking about generics in ads (eg Celebrex) when they become your main competitor. Then, it is NECESSARY to publicly counteract that competition. This is what advertising and PR is about.

    If you are going to have a celebrity spokesperson, then you better well have that person managed and prepped -- it is unconscionable to leave him swinging in the breeze out there! Diane Sawyer didn't even ask the tough questions or press him too hard!

  6. Anonymous9:54 PM

    Ok, watched the video. He did stumble badly on the generics issue.

    I agree he should have been better prepared for that question. He should have simply answered that "the final choice about medications is always up to the Dr that prescibes them" and that by talking about Lipitor and the importance of talking to your doctor and getting treatment, he hoped that even those that did not get Lipitor would get the treatment they needed.

    I am personally not bothered by the "Doctor" part. I am bothered by getting a look alike to make it lok like he is rowing. That just seems like a bonehead move.


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