Why you may no longer see those ‘medical alert’ TV ads from lawyers

You’ve seen the commercials.

There’s an attorney on your TV screen, giving a “medical alert” or making a “public service announcement,” talking about problems regarding a certain prescription medicine or medical device.

That lawyer asks viewers to call them if they’ve experienced problems and need legal help.

On Thursday, Texas House members on a 112-21 vote approved Senate Bill 1189 cracking down on some of these ads, which they call “deceptive advertising of legal services.”

“There have been indications that such advertisements may encourage viewers to make unfounded health care decisions that have serious negative consequences,” a bill analysis states.

The measure, shepherded through the House by state Rep. Giovanni Capriglione, R-Southlake, would regulate TV commercials that advertise legal services and solicit clients regarding medical issues.

No Tarrant County House member voted against the bill.

This measure prevents these ads from using certain phrases such as “medical alert,” “public service announcement” or “drug alert.” It states that the commercials can’t use the term “recall” when referring to a product that hasn’t actually been recalled.

These commercials must state that they are “a paid advertisement for legal services.” And they may not show federal or state agency logos that suggest the ad is approved by, or associated with, that agency.

The measure also requires that the firms, particularly those soliciting clients who say they’ve been harmed by taking a prescription drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, include a clear statement: “Do not stop taking a prescribed medication without first consulting a physician.”

“No Texan should be frightened out of taking a necessary medication because of a misleading legal services ad on TV,” said Lee Parsley, general counsel of Texans for Lawsuit Reform.

Critics have said they fear the bill could have a chilling effect on free speech. Any violation of the measure could be considered a violation of the deceptive trade practices act.

If signed by Gov. Greg Abbott, this measure becomes law Sept. 1.

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Anna M. Tinsley grew up in a journalism family and has been a reporter for the Star-Telegram since 2001. She has covered the Texas Legislature and politics for more than two decades and has won multiple awards for political reporting, most recently a third place from APME for deadline writing. She is a Baylor University graduate.