You are here

Congress Takes Action to Hold Plaintiffs' Bar Accountable for Drug Lawsuit TV Ads

Institute for Legal Reform, March 9, 2017

It appears Congress shares ILR’s concerns about the dangers caused by the daily onslaught of ads by plaintiffs’ attorneys hawking lawsuits against drugs and medical devices.

In 2015, trial lawyers spent 128 million dollars to air 365,000 ads seeking plaintiffs to sue drugs and medical device makers. According to a report submitted last year to the Food and Drug Administration, at least 30 people suffered strokes, heart attacks and other serious medical problems because they stopped taking the blood-thinning drug Xarelto after seeing a lawsuit commercial. At least two of these people died.

But the issue is getting notice from some influential people. This week, U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) announced that he has issued a series of letters urging state bar associations to help curb these types of advertisements. Chairman Goodlatte sent more than 50 letters, including a letter to the American Bar Association (ABA), a letter to each state bar, and the bar for the District of Columbia.

Chairman Goodlatte’s letters urge implementation of a “requirement that attorney commercials which may cause patients to discontinue medically necessary medications have appropriate warnings that patients should not discontinue medications without seeking the advice of their physician.”

An additional letter also called on groups that air such advertisements to answer questions regarding their practices, and what is being done with the information gathered from potential clients.

The Chairman’s letter notes that that the American Medical Association recently adopted a resolution supporting a legislative or regulatory “requirement that attorney commercials which may cause patients to discontinue medically necessary medications have appropriate warnings that patients should not discontinue medications without seeking the advice of their physician.”

“Pharmaceutical ads go through careful FDA scrutiny. Ads for lawsuits against drug makers should as well,” said ILR President Lisa Rickard in a recent FacesofLawsuitAbuse.org video.  “Trial lawyers have an obligation to ensure the claims in their ads don’t harm public health.”

Some experts say the FDA – which is charged with protecting the public health and safety – has the authority to intervene in trial lawyer advertising.

Chairman Goodlatte’s actions this week, however, are an important step toward protecting the health of U.S. consumers and holding the plaintiffs’ attorneys who air these ads accountable for their actions.

“Because of concern about patient safety,” concludes Goodlatte’s letter to the American Bar Association, “we would appreciate your informing the Committee about the steps the ABA is taking to review this matter and amend the Model Rules of Professional Conduct to require common sense reforms like these.”