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US: Committee Investigates Ad Tactics for Lipitor

by Stephanie SaulNew York Times
February 8th, 2008

A Congressional committee investigating the Lipitor advertising campaign featuring Dr. Robert Jarvik wants information about payments to people who might have served as stunt doubles for the doctor in televised ads.

The demand for records was made in letters mailed Thursday to nine advertising firms thought to be involved in Dr. Jarvik’s advertising campaign for Lipitor, the cholesterol medication that is the world’s top-selling drug.

The letters from Representatives John D. Dingell and Bart Stupak, both Michigan Democrats, said the House Energy and Commerce Committee and its subcommittee on oversight and investigations were investigating “false and misleading statements and the use of celebrity endorsements of prescription medications in direct-to-consumer advertising.”

The committee released a copy of Dr. Jarvik’s contract with Lipitor’s maker, Pfizer, revealing that the company agreed to pay Dr. Jarvik, a pioneer in artificial hearts, a minimum of $1,350,000 over two years for serving as celebrity pitchman for Lipitor.

The two-year deal began in March 2006 with a TV commercial in which Dr. Jarvik was depicted as sculling at Lake Crescent near Port Angeles, Wash.

The New York Times reported on Thursday that Dr. Jarvik does not row and that a Seattle rowing enthusiast and professional photographer, Dennis Williams, had served as a stunt double in the ad, which was broadcast between March and July 2006.

Mr. Williams has declined to comment, but his role as a stand-in for Dr. Jarvik was described in a newsletter published by the Lake Washington Rowing Club, where he is a member.

The House committee is also believed to be interested in determining whether doubles for Dr. Jarvik were used in other ads.

“We are taking a hard look at the deceptive tactics of drug companies in their direct-to-consumer advertising,” Mr. Stupak, the subcommittee chairman, said in a news release.

The letters seeking records were sent to IMC2; the Maya Group; Cline, Davis & Mann; ARS Group; Guideline; Ipsos-ASI; Ipsos-Understanding; the Kaplan Thaler Group; and Unit 7.



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