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Congress Takes Action as Lawsuit Ads Impact Health Care

Ensuring legal clarity and certainty is essential, especially at the intersection of the law and health care. In recent years, plaintiff attorneys have spent upwards of $892 million on television advertisements in the United States. Of that $892 million, $128 million was spent in 2015 alone on 365,000 ads hawking lawsuits against drugs and medical devices. These ads are adversely impacting health care provided to patients according to a report submitted to the Food and Drug Administration, which showed that at least 30 individuals suffered from serious medical problems, including strokes and heart attacks, after discontinuing their medication regimen due to advertisements peddling a drug lawsuit. Two of these patients lost their lives.

In order to protect patients and provide clarity, U.S. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte sent a series of letters to the American Bar Association (ABA), every state bar across the country and the District of Columbia’s bar, urging the state bar associations to control these advertisements. Chairman Goodlatte called on the bars to immediately implement “common sense reforms that require all legal advertising to contain a clear and conspicuous admonition to patients not to discontinue medication without consulting their physician.” He also urged them to consider “reminding patients that the drugs are approved by the FDA and that doctors prescribe these medications because of the overwhelming health benefits form these drugs.”

As noted in the Chairman’s letters, the American Medical Association (AMA) 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.” While not a legislative fix, Chairman Goodlatte’s action last week showed Congress’ commitment to protecting consumer health and holding plaintiff attorneys who take advantage of uncertainty accountable.

With frequent abuses of gaps in our legal system and bad acting plaintiff attorneys pursuing their own selfish interests at the cost of consumers, fighting for increased legal certainty remains one of the NC Chamber’s top priorities. As we believe a fair legal climate is one guided by openness and transparency, we will continue advancing our mission to strengthen and preserve integrity in North Carolina’s legal climate.

Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber