By Lisa A. Rickard, President, U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform
This afternoon, the California State Assembly overwhelmingly passed A.B. 3217, a bill that would outlaw “materially misleading” drug and medical device lawsuit advertising.
Medical lawsuit advertising has become a regular part of modern television and the internet. Sirens, warning signs, and actors dressed as doctors flood the airwaves and web in an effort to scare consumers into joining lawsuits. Some even use the logos of government agencies to try to add to their legitimacy. Plaintiffs’ lawyers spent nearly $1 billion on these ads just last year, and there’s no reason to think this trend won’t continue.
The bill would extend the California Consumer Legal Remedies Act by incorporating a standard that would consider a medical lawsuit advertisement “materially misleading” if it “understates the benefits of a drug or device, or materially overstates the risk associated with the drug or device.” This is the first time a state legislature has taken meaningful action to regulate this growing phenomenon.
Unfortunately, dramatic actors can cause real-life problems. Research from the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform found that almost three-in-ten consumers currently taking prescription medications would definitely or probably stop taking their prescriptions after seeing a lawsuit ad about the drug they take. Numbers from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) back this up. Through 2016, the FDA found 61 people that had stopped taking anti-coagulant medication after seeing these ads. Six unfortunately passed away.
The California Assembly’s action is an important step in reining in an offshoot of the legal system that has run amok. These manipulative, over-the-top ads can cause serious public health consequences. It’s time for states to act.
The California State Senate should pass this bill as soon as possible, or these advertisements will continue to threaten public health.