What value in medical endorsements?

In the run-up to Jarvik's firing Congress took a look at this whole business of celebrity drug endorsements. But nothing really came of it.

Sally Field, Boniva spokeswomanWhat is the real impact of a celebrity endorsement for a medical product?

We all remember the Robert Jarvik contretemps. I thought it was fair that a man whose device was made nearly obsolete by a medicine might do ads for it, but others disagreed, since he wasn't a practicing doctor.

Fair enough. But celebrity endorsements are ubiquitous in drug ads, with TV and publishing budgets growing increasing dependent on them.

From Bob Dole for Viagra, we now have Sally Field for Boniva. Patti LaBelle pushes the OneTouch glucose meter -- previously she hawked hormone replacement therapy until we learned of its dangers.

There aren't just risk in the products. If Lance Armstrong's career went the way of Roger Clemens', what would that mean to Bristol Myers Squibb? What does Montel Williams' behavior mean to the whole industry?

In the run-up to Jarvik's firing Congress took a look at this whole business of celebrity drug endorsements. But nothing really came of it.

That leaves this as a question for companies with products to sell, for doctors pressed by celebrities to choose certain products, and for consumers, who pay for both ads and products.

UPDATE: As evidence that we will be here again I've added John Mack's excellent Pharma Marketing to our blogroll.