I recently learned about a bit of hot water Pfizer is in over their Lipitor commercials starring Dr. Robert Jarvik. Now when you watch these commercials, Dr. Jarvik comes across as a licensed, practicing physician who is giving you medical advice. And let's not forget he has some fame from the Jarvik artificial heart he tested in 1982. Being an infant in 1982, I didn't know anything about the case, but it sounds impressive to have an artificial heart named after you—so he must be a good authority on cardiology and cholesterol right?
Wrong. The unfortunate truth be told, Dr. Jarvik, while technically an M.D., NBC reporter Bazell looked into his education early last year, he is not a licensed or practicing physician. After failing to make the grades to get into med school in the US after undergrad, Jarvik went to school in Italy for two years before dropping out. Then he meandered back to the US and finally went and graduated med school from the University of Utah in 1976. But he never interned, did a residency or practiced medicine in any way and he definitely can't prescribe drugs.
Well he's still an M.D. you say—except that by not being licensed to practice medicine, he doesn't have to renew his license, so he doesn't have to continue his medical education like licensed doctors do. Yes, he is still working on making his artificial heart work, 25 years later, but does that really qualify him to recommend prescription drugs on cholesterol? Especially when the tv spots currently airing misleadingly make him sound like a practicing physician who's taking his own advice when he's never prescribed any medicine—ever. Sneaky sneaky on Pfizer's part if you ask me.
I'm not the only one questioning this either. Congress is investigating if Jarvik is giving out medical advice without a license to practice medicine. Check out the spots below and decide for yourself.