Congress Probes Celebrity Drug Ad Endorsements

"America's pharmaceutical research companies currently are testing 277 new medicines to treat heart disease and stroke, as well as 92 medicines and vaccines to treat or prevent HIV/AIDS, more than 700 medicines for diseases that disproportionately affect women, and 691 medicines to help tackle diseases that disproportionately impact African-Americans," he said in a statement.

The use of celebrity endorsers such as Jarvik and football great Joe Montana, who was a pitchman for Lotrel, a drug to reduce high blood pressure, has also come under scrutiny for its potential to mislead viewers.

"But what is the evidence that [the celebrities] actually tried other medicines for treating the same problem at appropriate doses?" asked Dr. Sidney Wolf, the head of the health research group at Public Citizen. "My guess is no. For the average viewer, they would be able to get another drug that is equally effective, and equally safe, at a much lower price."

A spokesman for Pfizer issued a statement: "Pfizer takes its responsibility with regard to direct-to-consumer (DTC) advertising very seriously. Our foremost concern is that the tone and content are appropriate for the intended audiences, and that it will ultimately result in encouraging valuable patient/physician dialogue, that can lead to appropriate treatment.

"Pfizer recognizes the important role physicians play in helping patients better manage their health. Dr. Jarvik is a respected health care professional and heart expert. Dr. Jarvik, inventor of the Jarvik artificial heart, knows how imperative it is for patients to do everything they can to keep their heart working well. Furthermore, the advertising advises consumers to speak to their physicians about their heart health."

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