Pfizer's getting ready to resume advertising for its cholesterol drug Lipitor. In February, the drugmaker pulled its Lipitor ads, over charges they were misleading. The old ads featured artificial heart inventor Robert Jarvik, who appeared to be giving medical advice though he isn't a practicing physician. The new ads feature "John E.," a baby boomer and heart-attack survivor who "didn't take a cholesterol-fighting drug before his heart attack ... despite a history of high cholesterol." A Pfizer marketing executive said, "When we did testing with consumers ... John really resonated with them." But will the ad boost sales? According to a new study, the impact of direct-to-consumer (DTC) drug advertising on sales is "highly variable" and, for two of the three drugs studied, the ads "had no apparent impact." The study, which was published in the British Medical Journal, compared drug sales in French-speaking versus English-speaking Canadian provinces. Like most countries, Canada bans DTC ads, but Canadian viewers still see them via U.S. television. Advertising executives maintain that DTC ads do boost sales. "Had anyone ever heard of erectile dysfunction or overactive bladder before the drugs were advertised?" asked one.
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