The hiatus is over, and Pfizer (NYSE:PFE) is bringing Lipitor commercials back to a living room near you. These direct-to-consumer pitches supplement its efforts to promote the cholesterol-lowering drug via labor unions.

Pfizer has taken about six months off from hawking the drug on TV, after the whole Robert Jarvik (I'm a doctor, but not that kind of doctor) issue. Some people, including some in Congress, weren't too excited about the guy who invented the artificial heart promoting a drug that he couldn't prescribe.

Instead of celebrities, the new ads will feature an average Joe with high cholesterol. The guy -- actually, his name is John -- didn't take a cholesterol drug and ended up having a heart attack. Moral of the story: Talk to your doctor about cholesterol-lowering drugs -- preferably Lipitor, rather than Merck's (NYSE:MRK) and Schering-Plough's (NYSE:SGP) Vytorin or Zetia, AstraZeneca's (NYSE:AZN) Crestor, or a generic statin.

Pfizer has been facing tough competition from those drugs -- especially the cheap generics -- and direct-to-consumer ads are a way to milk every last dollar out of the drug before it starts to receive direct generic competition in late 2011.

Direct-to-consumer advertisements -- whether it's GlaxoSmithKline's (NYSE:GSK) diet drug alli or Sanofi-Aventis' (NYSE:SNY) sleep aid Ambien -- are a way of life for pharmaceutical companies. They get patients who might otherwise go untreated into the doctor's office, and as long as the patient can remember the name of the drug that brought him or her in, the advertisements should be a benefit to companies and investors alike.

Whether this advertising campaign works for Pfizer or not, pharmaceutical companies need to tread lightly. Direct-to-consumer advertisements have been on the chopping block before. The companies need to at least make an effort to seem like they're helping patients at the same time that they're branding their products, or the industry will lose its best advertising method.

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