I'm Not a Doctor, but...

His "credibility and sense of sincerity have been well established in the form of his appearances as a television news analyst and commentator. Although he is qualified as a physician to evaluate most any health, fitness, or medical product as a possible spokesperson, his credentials in having taught human sexuality at Harvard University, as well as his many years spent in women's health, make Dr. David the ideal media authority to discuss even the most delicate of subjects."

When I contacted Dr. David, he told me that he has been doing product endorsements since 1992, when he was contacted by a producer seeking a physician endorsement. Since then, he said, he has done "a handful of endorsements," and about eight years ago he launched his Web site.

Dr. David currently has a cosmetic surgery practice in the Boston area. He is a member of the AMA and the Massachusetts Medical Society. I asked him if he knew about AMA policy on physician endorsements and he said no.

AMA Rules for Docs in Ads Leaves Room for Interpretation

When I told him that the AMA says doctors should only endorse products that they use, he agreed.

But when I said the AMA goes on to say that doctors shouldn't be paid for endorsements and that doctors shouldn't be depicted wearing white coats, scrubs or other attire that would identify them as physicians, he had two words: "That's ridiculous."

And it turns out that he was right, up to a point.

When I checked AMA's policy-finder, I discovered that the AMA does allow payment if the informercial or advertisement clearly and prominently states that the doctor was paid to endorse the product.

Which brings me back to Dr. Cliff Warner, the soap opera character behind the "I'm not a doctor, but..." line. Maybe it's time to recycle that approach.

Peggy Peck is executive editor for MedPage Today, a service for physicians that provides a clinical perspective on breaking medical news.

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