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No more Jarvik ads

By Robert Bazell, NBC News chief science correspondent

For more than two years, the ads have been a frequent presence on many television programs including ours.

Dr. Robert Jarvik, the inventor of the Jarvik Seven artificial heart has been extolling the virtues of Lipitor, a cholesterol lowering drug. Lipitor is in fact the world's best selling drug with sales exceeding $12 billion a year.

But today Pfizer which makes the drug announced it is pulling the ads.

In a letter to Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, a Pfizer representative said: "Unfortunately, the way Dr. Jarvik was presented in these ads has created misimpressions and distractions" from Pfizer's primary goals of reducing heart disease.

I knew Dr. Jarvik when I covered the artificial heart operations in the early 1980s. I recounted his qualifications in an article for this website last year.

I pointed out that Jarvik was not a practicing physician. After graduating from college he was admitted to the University of Bologna medical school. He left there, got a degree in biomechanical engineering and then went to work on artificial organs at the University of Utah, where he eventually received an M.D., but never practiced medicine.

That article was followed by an investigation by Dingell's committee -- and an article in the New York Times which pointed out that one of the ads, featuring Jarvik allegedly rowing a scull, was in fact played by an actor.

Pfizer announced its decision to pull the ads in this letter sent today to the House Committee.

Rep. Dingell who was expressed interest in the entire concept of consumer advertising of prescription drugs called Pfizer's decision to withdraw the ads "a wise one."