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The Five Dumbest Things on Wall Street: Feb. 29

2. Jarvik's Artificial Rower

Pfizer (PFE - Get Report), we've missed you. Drug companies tend to provide plenty of dumbness, and Pfizer has been a stalwart, but had gone missing of late.

They're back. So where to start with this tale of free-form idiocy that took the form of now dearly departed commercials about a pill? The company set out to impress potential statin users by employing Dr. Robert Jarvik, the artificial heart pioneer, as their commercial spokesman and got accused of speaking falsely, but that wasn't the dumb part.

No, this huge drug company was forced to pull its big commercial campaign on Lipitor, the big cholesterol drug, because it was thought to be misleading in featuring Jarvik rowing a boat. Apparently, to make its shill look vibrant, Pfizer had to use a stunt double. You know how these nerdy medical sorts can be.

Dr. Jarvik supposedly cannot row an oar and chew gum at the same time. And, oh, by the way, he is also not technically a doctor -- at least one certified to practice --so making it seem like he is giving medical advice got a bit of a hairy eyeball from regulators, the fusspots. What could be next, filling out prescriptions with your Series 7? Puh-leez.

And now for the dumb part.

Pfizer sought to peddle a drug that is supposed to reduce the presence of an unseen substance so you can live a normal life ... with a guy most associated in the public consciousness still with a Dr. Seuss machine to substitute for the heart that kept Barney Clarke, a retired dentist, alive for a few extra, chained months.

Even someone not well versed in the field of advertising can conjure up better associations than this. But here is the association we are left with, after the intervention of Washington. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has, it was reported this week, asked the (count 'em) 10 advertising firms who worked on this stellar campaign to give up documents. About what, you ask? The use of body doubles.

Dumb-o-meter score: 88. Dr. Jarvik, you were getting paid over $1 million to peddle this drug. That would have covered a few rowing lessons, dude. Now, with a war still waging, Washington has to take their precious time from investigated Roger Clemens abscessed buttock cheek. Shame on you, sir.
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