Celebs lose cachet as drug marketers

Celebs may help sell magazines but do they really help market drugs? In the wake of Robert Jarvik's public downfall from Pfizer's pitchman-pedestal, advertising experts are wondering. Famous folk do generate interest, but maybe meds shouldn't be sold using the same techniques used to hawk detergent.

Consider the fact that the Jarvik controversy revolved around his qualifications to recommend Lipitor, a cholesterol med. Inventor of the artificial heart, Jarvik had never practiced medicine. Critics say that more effective pitches come from famous people who are actual patients, such as Sally Field--who was diagnosed with osteoporosis in 2005--promoting Roche and GlaxoSmithKline's Boniva.

Either way, though, celebrities tend to distract from the ad message--and in drug ads, the rapidly spoken voice-over of side effects is, for safety's sake, an important set of info that needs to be conveyed. That's one reason why Big Pharma has backed off from celebrities and turned to animated bees and Abraham Lincoln instead. Expect more backing off, experts said. "I think the latest round of concern is going to cause a lot of agencies to think twice," one ad exec predicted.

- check out the article in the Boston Globe