Bill targets legal ads aimed at prescription drugs

Opioids, drugs, prescription pain killers

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – Legislation to regulate plaintiff lawyer advertisements that target consumers of prescription drugs and medical devices advanced out of a state Senate committee Tuesday.

“I’m sure all of you have seen legal advertisements on television about prescription drugs,” Sen. Ralph Alvarado, R-Winchester, said about the legislation, known as Senate Bill 178. “They look like an important health alert about the risks associated with a medication often using a logo of a national health organization like the Food and Drug Administration meant to imply authenticity. They might show an ambulance in the background, use a dramatic or scary voice.”

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The ads compromise the doctor-patient relationship and potentially put consumers’ health at risk, Alvarado said while testifying before the Senate Economic Development, Tourism and Labor Committee. He explained that the ads do this by emphasizing a drug’s side effects while failing to mention its benefits. Common prescriptions that are targeted by these ads include blood thinners and drugs to treat diabetes, heartburn, cardiovascular events and certain cancers.

SB 178 would require advertisers to warn viewers that it is dangerous to stop taking a prescribed medication without first consulting a doctor. A second provision would prohibit the use of a government agency logo in a manner that suggests an affiliation. A third provision would prohibit ads that solicit legal business from being labeled a “medical alert” or “health alert.” Lastly, SB 178 would protect personal health information from being sold for soliciting legal services without the written authorization of the patient.

Alvarado called SB 178 a “patient protection bill.” He stressed that it would not ban legal ads or restrict someone’s right to seek legal services in response to their medical care.

Sen. Ernie Harris, R-Prospect, asked how enforceable the proposed law would be since some of Kentucky’s larger metropolitan areas, such as Northern Kentucky, are served by out-of-state television stations. Cory Meadows of the Kentucky Medical Association (KMA) testified that was a concern but noted Tennessee has a similar statute and West Virginia was considering one.

Sen. Wil Schroder, R-Wilder, asked why a violation of SB 178 would be punishable by a misdemeanor and not just a civil penalty. Meadows said KMA wanted to make it a felony. He said some type of criminal penalty was needed to “put teeth” in the measure.

Jay Vaughn of the Kentucky Justice Association testified that the group liked the proposed warning not to stop taking a drug without consulting a physician. He said the group thought the other provisions of SB 178 went too far.

SB 178 now goes to the full Senate for further consideration.

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Tom Kenny joined ABC 36 News in June of 2001 as a General Assignment Reporter. A native of Peoria, Illinois, he graduated cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communications from Western Illinois University. He currently anchors ABC 36 News at 5pm, 6pm and 11pm. Tom has more than three decades of experience in broadcast journalism. He is the only broadcast journalist in Lexington television history to be honored with a national Edward R. Murrow Award. Tom was recognized for reporting on a story that gave a rare glimpse inside the secretive world of the Federal Witness Protection Program. He has won an Emmy Award for anchoring and another for investigative reporting, exposing the deceit and potential danger of online diploma mills. Tom has ten other Emmy nominations to his credit for investigative and feature reporting. He has won Associated Press Awards for reporting and anchoring. He has won two Addy Awards for excellence in promotional writing. Tom was the first broadcast journalist in Lexington TV history to be awarded the Silver Circle Award by the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. It is one of the highest honors given by NATAS. It recognizes television professionals who have performed distinguished service within the television industry for 25-years or more. Tom was honored for more than his longevity, he was recognized for making an enduring contribution to the vitality of the television industry and for setting high standards of achievement. He was also recognized for giving back to the community as a mentor, educator and volunteer. Tom also has network broadcast experience in radio and television having worked as a sports reporter for ESPN, Sportschannel, NBC Sports and the Breeders’ Cup. He was also the studio host and halftime producer for CBS Radio Sports’ College Football Game of the Week and covered the NFL for One-On-One Radio Sports. Prior to joining WTVQ-TV, Tom was Vice-President of the Houston Astros Minor League baseball team in Lexington. He was part of the original management team that brought professional baseball back to the Bluegrass after a nearly 50-year absence. Tom has lived in Lexington since 1984. In that time, he has been heavily involved with dozens of charity and civic groups, with a special emphasis on helping Veterans. He can be reached at You can also follow Tom on Facebook and Twitter @TomKennyNews. Just click on the links at the top of the page.