Alliance for Aging Research (Alliance) President and CEO Susan Peschin, MHS, has issued the following statement in support of a June 23, 2017, hearing being held by the United States House of Representatives’ Judiciary Committee, Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice, titled “Examining Ethical Responsibilities Regarding Attorney Advertising.” The hearing will be held today at 9 a.m. EST and will be webcast live here:
On behalf of the Alliance for Aging Research, we thank U.S. House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte for his leadership in encouraging the American Bar Association (ABA) to self-regulate and amend its Model Rules of Professional Conduct to include common sense reforms. The Alliance has had a significant interest in this issue since the 1-800-BAD-DRUG advertisements, which target oral anticoagulants used to reduce stroke risk in patients with atrial fibrillation (AFib), first came to our attention in 2015.
AFib is the most common form of cardiac arrhythmia, affecting about one in 25 adults age 60 or older, and one in 10 adults age 80 or older. Those living with AFib are at an increased risk of stroke; risk of stroke for AFib patients is five times greater than for those without the disease. And AFib-related strokes are quite serious. According to the National Stroke Association, 70 percent of AFib patients who suffer from a stroke will die.
To reduce stroke risk, patients with AFib are often treated with an anticoagulant, which is highly effective at reducing stroke risk by as much as 80 percent. Yet, the messaging, tone, and style of the BAD-DRUG advertisements on anticoagulants are reminiscent of asbestos and thalidomide—very high profile cases of consumer harm from recalled products. It would be reasonable for viewers to conclude that their medically prescribed anticoagulant is similarly a drug now found to be too dangerous to take, when in fact it is statistically very likely to save their lives. These advertising tactics are designed to solicit clients who have experienced a serious bleeding event, yet the messaging is, in practice, creating a second group of patients who have suffered harm.
We call on the ABA and this subcommittee to ensure that all future television advertisements on BAD-DRUGs include: 1) disclaimers—in legible print and verbally communicated—that patients should never go off prescribed medications without speaking with their health care provider; 2) the prescribed use of the medication (in this case, for stroke prevention in people with AFib); and 3) facts regarding the rate of adverse events. Any ads that fail to follow these requirements should be enjoined from future airings by the FTC or appropriate state regulatory body.
Peschin’s complete written statement for the Congressional Record can be seen here.