While most plaintiff ads address public health needs, an increasing number of marketing campaigns backed by wealthy, profit-driven investors are misleading members of the public into thinking they have been treated with faulty medical devices that need to be removed.
These ads often deceive patients into thinking the claims are a directive from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Many patients conclude they should react, even if there are no issues with their medical device, by joining a lawsuit, questioning their care, and in severe cases, seeking the removal of an implanted and many times life-saving medical device.
In just one year’s time (2018 to 2019), the number of medical device litigation ads increased 52% from 117,000 to 224,000 and estimated spending on these ads nearly doubled from $36 million to $68 million.
Deceptive medical device ads are typically funded through private equity or law firms that front money to lawyers and businesses that specialize in claim generation and are paid if the litigation generates a settlement or verdict. These lawyers then work closely with marketing agencies to create massive ad campaigns designed to look like FDA public service announcements and target those with specific medical devices. Once the claims add up, the plaintiffs’ lawyers seek to have the claims consolidated into a state mass tort panel.
These “lawsuit ads” intentionally leave viewers—who may be potential plaintiffs and jurors—with the impression that a particular product is a target of an FDA “Health Alert” or “Medical Alert" and may suggest that the product has been recalled, even when the product remains FDA-approved.
Most lawsuit ads conclude with fine print that is too small and too briefly shown for viewers to read. This text often informs viewers that the advertisement is for legal services, that the sponsor is not an attorney but a company that specializes in generating "leads" for law firms, and that any legal work may be handled by others. Callers are sometimes routed to foreign call centers, who take basic information to screen claims. Very few of the ads advise viewers to speak with their doctors before discontinuing or reducing use of a prescription medication.
Misleading litigation advertising may cause people to undergo unnecessary, expensive and dangerous surgeries, avoid receiving essential procedures, or stop taking life-saving medications. The FDA reported 213 such cases in February 2019; of those 213 cases, 27% of them reported an adverse event after stopping treatment.
Similar past actions reveal the dangerous potential misleading patients about their medical devices if not addressed appropriately – and soon.
Nearly 60% of respondents undergoing a targeted treatment who were shown a lawsuit ad about that care said they would reduce the amount of medication below what their physicians advised.
Patients should trust doctors, not lawyers, with their medical care. Physicians report that tort lawsuit ads often overemphasize risks, falsely imply a product is dangerous and fraudulently suggest a product has been recalled when it has not, often scaring patients from using FDA- approved or cleared medical devices.
When a patient responds to an advertisement, they are often referred to compromised doctors or clinics that are part of and profit off the claim generation machine. This can result in marketers convincing patients to undergo dangerous procedures such as removing the medical device when neither medically necessary or sound.
Many patients are misled by these marketing campaigns into doubting the advice of their physician who implanted the device and understands their full medical history.