The people who’ve taken a legislative axe to archaic concepts like free speech and made it almost impossible to find a cold medication that works now have a new cause celebre…cracking down on celebrity endorsements for consumer products.
The ads in question this time are for the top-selling Pfizer product, Lipitor, a cholesterol-lowering drug that from all accounts I’ve been able to find works effectively. The target for Congress’ ire is the pitchman that Pfizer selected to plug their product, Dr. Robert Jarvik (best known for inventing the artificial heart). What is the hangup about Dr. Jarvik’s presence in the ad? Apparently, even though he possesses a doctorate in medicine from the University of Utah, he’s not licensed to practice medicine (since he didn’t do a residency or internship) therefore Congressman John Dingell (chairman of Energy & Commerce) doesn’t consider him qualified to dispense medical advice or give recommendations about what drugs people should consider for health problems.
Leaving aside the obvious question of why an individal who’s apparently qualified enough to complete medical school and design a mechanical heart worth sticking in a person’s chest isn’t a more acceptable candidate to plug a medical product than some creepily cheery middle-aged actors (who likely never set foot in medical school) pretending to have trouble taking a whiz or raising their flag to full-staff when it’s time for a bit of the old in and out…what business is it of Congress who private industry uses to sell their products so long as the products 1) aren’t unreasonably harmful to the consumers, 2) do pretty much what the ads say they do, and 3) use ads that clearly recommend consultation with an expert before purchasing or using said product?
Does Congress honestly believe that the overwhelming majority of people are stupid enough to base their lives around what celebrities tell them to do? Or is this yet another cynical example of a proponent of socialized medicine using a backdoor tactic to undermine the private drug industry under the claim that they’re just “looking out for the consumer”? Probably a little of both, in my own opinion, but consumers, U.S. healthcare and private industry in general would certainly be better served if our elected officials refrained from dictating to businessmen how they should run their ad campaigns for their products and stopped assuming that people are incapable of making informed decisions about what chemicals to put in their bodies or what products to spend their money on without a “qualified” pitchman telling them.