Pfizer Pulls Jarvik Lipitor Ad After Congressional Scrutiny

After facing a Congressional hearing and increased public scrutiny, drug manufacturer Pfizer has decided to stop using Robert Jarvik as its pitchman for the cholesterol lowering drug Lipitor. While Jarvik is best known for developing the artificial heart, he’s never practiced medicine and is not a trained cardiologist. The Lipitor ads mention that Jarvik is a doctor without mentioning that he’s never practiced medicine, a problem for Rep. John Dingell (D-MI) who sent letters to Pfizer and the FDA complaining that Jarvik’s not so subtle message could mislead patients about Jarvik’s actual qualifications. This is a positive move for consumer safety and it demonstrates that big pharmaceutical companies can succumb to public pressure to do the right thing. Often, these drug companies are more concerned about their profits than public or consumer safety. That’s my concern with the recent Supreme Court ruling authored by conservative justice Antonin Scalia. The ruling bars civil liability claims involving Class III medical devices that have been approved by the FDA. According to the ruling, such claims, under the premarket approval process (PMA), are preempted by federal law. Essentially, this means that consumer protection has been forfeited by the ruling. Even the FDA used to believe that that ability to bring civil liability claims in state courts kept the medical device manufacturers honest and more accountable to the public. The Supreme Court, with its pre-emption ruling, puts consumer safety behind big business and corporate profits.