“Sick of Lawsuits?” I’m Sick of Patient Harm

Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) – which is actually funded by major corporations, including pharmaceutical companies seeking to escape liability for the harm they cause consumers – has launched still another advertising campaign bashing plaintiff lawyers. This one, simply called “Sick of Lawsuits,” is aimed at persuading people not to sue pharmaceutical and medical device companies.

The ads imply that people who sue drug and device companies have fallen prey to devious lawyer advertising. Instead of calling a lawyer, the ads say, viewers who may suspect they’ve been hurt by a drug or device should call their doctor.

So, let me get this straight: under the veil of a “grass roots organization,” CALA wants patients who may or may not have been seriously harmed by a drug or medical device to seek recourse from the doctor who either prescribed the drug or implanted the device. The organization does not want these patients to call an attorney and perhaps take advantage of the court system – the only avenue this country offers citizens for recourse when seriously harmed by a corporation.

Pharma Far Outspends Lawyers on Advertising

Business interests are claiming with alarm that plaintiff lawyers will spend nearly $900 million on advertising in 2015. Meanwhile, according to Kantar Media, which tracks advertising dollars, pharmaceutical companies spent $4.53 billion in 2014 on direct-to-consumer ads alone. As we all know, the purpose of these ads is to influence patients so they ask their doctors about prescribing a particular drug, which in turn helps pharmaceutical reps to close a sale with a doctor. Pharmaceutical sales pressure has gotten so bad that the American Medical Association last month voted in favor of a ban on all direct-to-consumer prescription drug and medical device advertising.

What’s worse, pharmaceutical reps often try to convince doctors to prescribe a drug for “off-label” purposes. That is, for purposes other than those approved by the FDA as safe and efficacious. Two recent examples of drugs tragically sold “off-label”:

  • Zofran, marketed by GlaxoSmithKline directly to OBGYNs, was prescribed for nausea in pregnant women when only tested on and approved for chemotherapy patients. Result: infants born with serious abnormalities.
  • Vaginal mesh products, used in pelvic organ prolapse surgery for women, but only clinically tested on hernias in men. Result: women with shredded internal organs because the mesh “travels” through uterine tissue.

Pharma Holds the Solution to Fewer Lawsuits

In my 30 years suing drug and device companies, I have represented thousands of people whose lives were ended or permanently and seriously damaged and thus shortened, by an unacceptably dangerous drug, medical device or blood product. In virtually all cases, the drug or device company failed to conduct adequate testing, knew a product was unacceptably risky but decided to sell it anyway, and/or otherwise engaged in false advertising.

Late-night plaintiff lawyer advertising may cause your eyes to roll, but at least it doesn’t do harm. If pharmaceutical and medical device companies spent more money making sure their products were safe before coming on the market, and quickly removing products from the market after evidence showed they were unacceptably risky, there would be far fewer lawsuits against them. Sick of lawsuits? I’m sick of drug and device companies that prioritize profits over patient health and safety.

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