FTC Flags Potentially Unlawful TV Ads for Prescription Drug Lawsuits
By Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission staff has sent letters to seven legal practitioners and lead generators expressing concerns that some television advertisements that solicit clients for personal injury lawsuits against drug manufacturers may be deceptive or unfair under the FTC Act. The FTC is not publicly identifying who received the letters.
The letters state that some lawsuit ads may misrepresent the risks associated with certain pharmaceuticals and could leave consumers with the false impression that their physician-prescribed medication has been recalled. According to the letters, some of the lawsuit ads may make deceptive or unsubstantiated claims about the risks of taking blood thinners and drugs for diabetes, acid reflux, and high blood pressure, among other conditions. The letters explain that advertisers must have competent and reliable scientific evidence to substantiate their claims about these purported risks.
The letters note that the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System contains reports of consumers who saw lawsuit ads about the prescription drugs they were taking, discontinued those medications, and suffered adverse consequences as a result. The letters say that lawsuit ads that cause, or are likely to cause, viewers to discontinue their medications might constitute an unfair act or practice. To prevent consumer injury, the letters suggest that lawsuit ads may need to include clear and prominent audio and visual disclosures stating that consumers should not stop taking their medications without first consulting their doctors.
The letters also highlight lawsuit ads that open with sensational warnings or alerts, which may initially mislead consumers into thinking they are watching a government-sanctioned medical alert or public service announcement. The letters remind the recipients that advertisements promoting goods or services should be identifiable as advertising from the beginning.
Finally, the letters strongly encourage the recipients to ensure that their advertising is not unfair or deceptive, advise them that the FTC will continue to monitor potentially deceptive or unfair lawyer advertising, and state that the agency will take follow-up action as warranted.