Partnership Initiates Fight to Regulate Lawsuit Ads Targeting “Bad Drugs”

Coalition says this type of ad interferes with physician–patient relationships.

Advertisements calling for lawsuits to be filed by consumers who have been injured or harmed after taking various drugs have proliferated in recent years. Now, the Partnership to Protect Patient Health, a coalition of national physician and patient advocacy groups, is trying to get them regulated. 

The coalition believes that these advertisements have the potential to disrupt physician–patient relationships. They point to the results of a recent survey of 500 healthcare providers (HCPs) and 800 patients conducted by the partnership. Approximately 25% of the patient respondents indicated they had stopped taking prescribed drugs after seeing the ads, without speaking to their doctors. Nearly 60% of the HCPs reported that they have had patients stop taking medication on their own after seeing drug-injury lawsuit ads.

Early research conducted by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration revealed that unnecessary complications — and even deaths — have resulted when patients have stopped taking medication under these circumstances. In 2016, the American Medical Association sanctioned the ads and recommended that they contain “appropriate and conspicuous warnings” to not discontinue drugs without consulting a doctor. 

“It is alarming that these commercials frighten some patients into making serious treatment decisions without talking to their physicians. This drives a wedge in the patient–physician relationship and jeopardizes patients’ safety, especially if they’re taking a lifesaving medication,” said David Charles, M.D., chairman of the Alliance for Patient Access, a steering committee member of the coalition.

To date, the advertising has been viewed as tort reform, but the partnership is seeking to get it classified as a healthcare issue. “We’re advocating for responsible advertising, which reinforces the need to consult your physician before making any changes,” said Chase Martin, coalition manager for the Partnership to Protect Patient Health. Charles added: “Regulators must take steps to review and rein in the claims made in these ads to ensure they don’t endanger patient health and undermine informed medical decision-making.”

Because advertising enforcement is regulated and enforced by state attorneys general, the partnership will be targeting legislators at the state level. The coalition is also planning to speak to members of Congress.


Cynthia A. Challener, Ph.D.

Dr. Challener is an established industry editor and technical writing expert in the areas of chemistry and pharmaceuticals. She writes for various corporations and associations, as well as marketing agencies and research organizations, including That’s Nice and Nice Insight.