Murky Legal Ads Putting Kentuckians At Risk

State Representative Kim Moser (R-64)

State Representative Kim Moser (R-64)

February is a quite a month for advertisers with major events like the Super Bowl and the Academy Awards ushering in a new crop of big budget TV spots. However, another kind of advertisement flooding the airwaves should be raising our concerns—the nearly omnipresent “bad drug” advertisements.

We’ve all seen them. These ads with their sirens and faux public service announcement posturing are effective—bad news for fearful Kentuckians who may be compelled to stop a prescribed treatment.

Consider that a national survey found nearly three out of five doctors have had patients discontinue treatment after seeing one of these ads, without ever consulting their physician. As a result, many people are being harmed or worse.

We have a moral obligation to mandate and enforce transparency and safety in all advertising—especially ads targeting vulnerable populations like sick or elderly Kentuckians. I am proud to have introduced legislation to do just that by ensuring accountability from the advertisers.

The premise of these “bad drug” ads is simple. They look like an important “health alert” about the risks associated with a medication. They often feature actors in lab coats. They are always dramatic, with threats spelled out in big text, next to logos of state or national health-related agencies meant to imply authenticity or sincerity. The goal is simple: entice the audience with promises of a financial recovery while highlighting the risk of injury or death for loved ones.

Of course, the truth is something entirely different. These ads have no affiliation with health agencies and are not “health alerts.” They are ads for legal services, pushed by companies specializing in plaintiff aggregation—and designed to evade oversight by Bar Associations.

These dubious practices have become so prevalent across the country that the American Medical Association passed a formal resolution criticizing the ads, describing them as “fearmongering.” The resolution urges states to mandate language telling viewers to check with a doctor before stopping any medication. It’s a good start, but we need to do more to protect consumers.

My bill goes right at the heart of this problem by requiring transparency form both the attorneys and their referral services. It forces them to clearly state the advertisement is for legal services; to stop their pernicious use of state and federal agency logos and/or false “health alert” language; and require each ad to explicitly tell consumers not to discontinue or change medication without speaking to their doctor.

While I am always cautious about regulating free market enterprise, Kentucky consumers must be better informed and protected from these murky activities. We simply cannot allow profit-minded lawyers or their referral services to deliberately prey upon our elderly and infirmed—scaring them into a rash decision that could put their lives at risk. That’s not a business model, its exploitation.

Our doctors and their patients deserve better. It’s time to protect consumers by ensuring these service providers follow the same transparency and ethical standards as every other advertiser.

My legislation does that. Our loved ones depend on it.

Kim Moser is the state representative for the 64th House District, the Chair of the Health and Family Services Committee and founding director of the NKY Office of Drug Control Policy.

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Ben Keeton

Publisher at Medical News
Ben is the publisher of Medical News and focuses on the business of healthcare in Kentucky.
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