Lipitor Scare Tactics

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Have you seen this ad?  Lipitor – the world’s biggest-selling prescription drug (that’s right, not just world’s #1 cholesterol drug – the biggest Rx, period) – is running ads designed to scare people into believing they need Lipitor.  When they don’t.

Lipitor Ad July 2011

Or at least they might not.

What they are doing in this ad is brilliant from a marketing perspective (I’ve worked in consumer packaged goods marketing since 1990).  They have absolutely NAILED the common fear among those with high cholesterol: should I treat it with an Rx or not?

And it’s hard to get an answer to that.  Even from doctors.  A lot of whom are quick to treat with Lipitor – because it feels safer to lower cholesterol than not, even if there are no other heart disease risk factors. (And their patients are asking for it because of ads like these.)

Which is why this ad, though clever, made me livid.  Frankly, I believe this ad to be deliberately misleading.  It draws you in with just ONE issue – high cholesterol.  So there I am, reading along and nodding, yes, that’s me.

BUT in truth, this ad is not relevant to me because the ONLY thing I have is high cholesterol.  I don’t have other heart disease risk factors.

And that’s the crux of the issue.  Because while it’s been shown that for those with high cholesterol and heart disease risk factors* cholesterol-lowering medication does indeed lower heart disease risk. But this has NOT been shown to be true for those whose ONLY risk factor is high cholesterol.  (See Do Cholesterol Drugs Do Any Good? on my Resources Page). *People who smoke, and/or are obese, and/or have high blood pressure or heart disease already.

The small print in the Lipitor ad supports this:

“Lipitor can lower the risk of heart attack…in patients who have heart disease or risk factors for heart disease such as age, smoking, high blood pressure, how HDL-C, family history of early heart disease.”

But the headline and body copy of this ad are talking JUST about high cholesterol. So Pfizer is trying to get those with just high cholesterol to think about Lipitor.

This is made more troubling by the news yesterday that Pfizer may be trying to take Lipitor OTC – so anyone would be able to buy it, without a prescription.

I have nothing against Lipitor and Pfizer – indeed, I worked for a Pfizer division way back in 2000.  And Lipitor is a fantastic medicine that a lot of people in my family take.

But I do not think it’s right to target those with JUST high cholesterol with Lipitor.  So if you, like me, are trying to lower your high cholesterol without meds – and your only heart disease risk factor is high cholesterol – don’t be fooled by this misleading ad.  Only try Lipitor if it’s truly indicated and you have other heart disease risks or your doctor recommends it.

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One thought on “Lipitor Scare Tactics

  1. Well, I have to say I’m not a bit surprised. These big drug companies want to get every penny they can, and they’ll stop at nothing to do so.
    It seems like they’re getting increasingly aggressive across the board…in TV commercials, in print…

    But good for you for calling them on it.

    By the way…I have been using your recipes up here on the Cape. Made the kale chips, quinoa, and making the char/arugula dish tonight.

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