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AUSTIN – Every year, Texans at home watching TV are inundated with tens of thousands of lawyer advertisements, many of which “deceptively” warn viewers that the medication they’re taking could be dangerous.

On April 11, the Texas Senate passed SB 1189, which relates to deceptive advertising of legal services and seeks to bring transparency and accountability to such attorney-paid ads.

The bill, filed by Sen. Dawn Buckingham of Lakeway, requires advertisements to properly warn patients that it is dangerous to stop taking a prescribed medication before consulting with a physician.

The bill also has a provision for imposing civil penalties on individuals who market deceptive ads.

Many proponents of the bill, such as Texans for Lawsuit Reform, argue some lawyer ads can “unnecessarily” scare people to the point that they stop taking their essential medications.

“The Texas Senate sent a strong message today that our state will not tolerate lawyer advertising practices that unnecessarily alarm Texans and create threats to public health to generate clients,” said TLR General Counsel Lee Parsley.

“It’s unacceptable that Texans have suffered adverse health consequences or died because they were frightened into discontinuing use of a necessary medication by an advertisement for legal services.”

A 2016 survey conducted on behalf of Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse found that 82 percent of doctors believe that such ads can lead to patients not taking their medications as prescribed.

The survey also found that 66 percent of doctors say patients have questioned their recommended course of treatment, citing concerns about claims they saw in a lawsuit ad.

“This bill requires a few common-sense disclaimers, including, ‘Do not stop taking a prescribed medication without first consulting a physician,’” Parsley said. “We hope the Texas House will take quick action to ensure Texans are not harmed by harmful advertising practices.”

Texas television viewers were inundated by more than 190,000 advertisements for legal services in the state’s three largest media markets over a six-month period last year, according to a recent report by the American Tort Reform Association.

The study examined the prevalence of legal advertising in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, and found that legal services accounted for a staggering $23.4 million in ad buys during the period studied.

Comparing legal services ads to other common ad categories, the study found that viewers in Houston saw more than 19 lawsuit ads for every pizza ad, while San Antonio viewers saw more than 11 times as many legal ads than ads for hardware stores.

Buckingham, elected in 2016, is a Republican for District 24. In addition to being a Texas senator, Buckingham is an oculoplastic and reconstructive surgeon. 

Southeast Texas Record, April 11, 2019

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