A news item featured by AOL caught my eye this morning. You may have seen it as well.
It was an article that appeared in the NY Times earlier this week about those ads that Dr. Robert Jarvik has been doing for Lipitor, the cholesterol drug. Lipitor is not only Pfizer's biggest seller; it is, according to the article, the world's best selling drug. (I assume "drug" is, in this instance, a wistful euphemism for "legal drug.") Having cholesterol issues myself, due primarily to a genetic predisposition to eating pizza and hot dogs, the ads - more precisely, Dr. Jarvik's participation in them - held great interest for me. Though obviously a paid endorsement, this is one of medicine's most respected professionals, developer of the artificial heart, for goodness sake, not some b-list tv actor trying to pay the mortgage in between sitcom jobs. I'm not big on endorsements in general, but clearly Dr. Jarvik's would be one to take seriously.
While the value of Dr. Jarvik's contributions to medicine cannot be questioned, the article makes a few points that, given his high standing in the medical community, shake the foundation of credible endorsement. It turns out that while he is an accomplished researcher, Dr. Jarvik is not a cardiologist, is not licensed to practice medicine and can't prescribe Lipitor or any other medication. The ad even goes so far as to show the good doctor, as someone who himself takes Lipitor, performing athletic activities that, we now learn, were actually done by a body double. (What's the message here: take Lipitor and you, too, can get your cholesterol low enough to hire a body double?) We expect - and accept - a certain amount of misdirecting rhetoric in ads generally, of course, even those that pitch prescription medicines directly to consumers. The problem is that when the spokesman is a widely respected medical professional it would seem reasonable to expect it's because a higher standard is being followed.
While some endorsements of products or even political candidates by celebrities, politicians, and celebrity-politicians are more laughable than others (coughcoughChuckNorriscoughcough), we know not to take any of them too seriously. (Ok, I'm an optimist.) We need to be able to trust doctors more than we do entertainment personalities; when we find out that Dr. Jarvik's qualifications to endorse Lipitor may be limited to his having been prescribed it by another doctor - presumably, one who is licensed to practice medicine - it's disquieting to say the least.
Here, by the way, is a link to the NY Times article:
On February 15, a movie called "The Spiderwick Chronicles" is scheduled to be released. I know nothing at all about this movie, but since it has the word Chronicles in the title I figure I should start getting e-mails pretty soon either telling me our children will be saved from Satan if I see it, or that the world as we know it will be destroyed and everyone (except, of course, the folks who agree to forward the e-mail to everyone they know) will be banished to eternal damnation if I see it. I'll decide what to do after I see the endorsements.