Alliance for Aging Research Applauds the Federal Trade Commission’s Action to Protect Older Adults from Dangerous, Deceptive Medical Lawsuit Ads

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Washington, September 25, 2019Alliance for Aging Research President and CEO Susan Peschin, MHS, issued the following statement:

The Alliance for Aging Research (the “Alliance”) applauds the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for taking steps to protect older adults from potentially deceptive and dangerous advertising. Yesterday, the FTC issued letters to seven legal practitioners and lead generators, warning them that some of their medical lawsuit television ads soliciting clients may misrepresent the risks associated with certain medicines and mislead viewers into thinking that the ad is a government-sanctioned medical alert or PSA and that their physician-prescribed medication has been recalled.

The Alliance has been involved in this issue for several years (see our 2017 testimony here and a recent opinion piece in STAT News here) after learning about members of the aging community who stopped taking their medications as a result of these advertisements. These fear-mongering ads have frightened people to stop taking medications that are prescribed to help prevent life-threatening problems. Older adults are especially vulnerable to these dangerous ads due to their television-viewing habits. In fact, the Nielsen Company reports that adults aged 65 and older spend an average of seven hours a day in front of the TV and we know that many of them are influenced by the lawsuit ads they see. A 2017 survey by Public Opinion Strategies found that more than half of respondents said they would be “very concerned” if they saw a lawsuit ad about a drug they were taking. One in four said they would stop taking it immediately without consulting their doctor.

A review by the Food and Drug Administration of its Adverse Event Reporting System database identified 213 reports in which individuals saw a lawsuit ad, stopped taking their medication, and experienced a health problem. The summary included 32 reports of strokes, two transient ischemic attacks (“mini-strokes”), and 11 reports of blood clots among individuals who stopped taking anticoagulants after watching these ads. Their average age was 81.

These medical lawsuit ads are not usually based on firm scientific evidence indicating a problem Thankfully, the FTC is now informing the advertisers in question that to prevent consumer injury their ads must have “competent and reliable scientific evidence” to substantiate any claims made about the risks associated with the medications. As recommended by the Alliance in our advocacy, the FTC also suggests that the 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 Alliance believes this is an important step forward in protecting the aging community from harmful and dangerous ads which could result in them stopping important, life-saving medications. We are encouraged by this action and will continue to urge the FTC to take the follow-up action outlined in their letters if warranted.

For more information, read “Drug Lawsuit Ads Are Scaring Seniors to Death”, an opinion piece in STAT News by F. Roosevelt Gilliam III and Susan Peschin published on May 13, 2019.

To read the Alliance for Aging Research’s statement in support of a June 23, 2017 hearing held by the United States House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, titled “Examining Ethical Responsibilities Regarding Attorney Advertising,” click here.


About the Alliance for Aging Research:

The Alliance for Aging Research is the leading nonprofit organization dedicated to accelerating the pace of scientific discoveries and their application to vastly improve the universal human experience of aging and health. The Alliance was founded in 1986 in Washington, D.C., and has since become a valued advocacy organization and a respected influential voice with policymakers. For more information, please visit www.agingresearch.org.


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Lauren Smith Dyer
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