By Harold Kim, Chief Operating Officer, U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform
Tennessee lived up to its ‘America at its Best’ slogan this week by enacting the nation’s first law to curb deceptive trial lawyer ads targeting prescription drugs and medical devices. As anyone who watches TV or goes online likely knows, plaintiffs’ lawyers aggressively market such ads to scare consumers—many times senior citizens—into filing lawsuits. Trial lawyers spent almost $1 billion on advertising in 2017, and seem to be keeping the pedal to the metal.
The ads often use warning signs and graphic video of ambulances while “medical alert” or “recall warning” flash on the screen—sometimes even alongside the logos of government agencies. Tennessee’s new law (HB 352/SB 352) prohibits ads that display the logo of a government agency, use the word “recall” if a product hasn’t been recalled, or fail to disclose they are paid ads for legal services.
Unfortunately, these ads can scare people out of taking their medicines, and the results can be tragic. Our research found that almost three-in-ten consumers currently taking prescription medications either would probably or definitely stop taking their prescriptions after seeing a lawsuit ad about the drug they take. The Food and Drug Administration found that, through 2016, 61 people had stopped taking anti-coagulant medication after seeing these ads, and sadly, six passed away.
Other states ought to follow Tennessee’s lead in saying enough is enough to deceptive trial lawyer ads. Such laws would not only prevent trial lawyers from preying on vulnerable citizens, but they may also actually save lives. We applaud Gov. Bill Lee and the bipartisan action of the Tennessee legislature for seeing this first-of-its-kind law through to completion.