Does Attorney Advertising Stimulate Adverse Event Reporting?

Elizabeth C. Tippett & Brian K. Chen*


Law firms and legal referral companies spend about $114 million per year[1] on television advertisements soliciting patients for mass tort lawsuits against drug companies and medical device makers (“drug injury advertising”).[2] These advertisements warn viewers about a particular adverse event associated with a drug or medical device, and advise them to call the number listed on-screen if they have experienced that adverse event.[3]

This study is the first to investigate whether drug injury advertising volume is associated with increased adverse event reporting through the Federal Adverse Event Reporting System (FAERS). The study analyzed 412,901 adverse event reports to FAERS, involving twenty-eight groups of drugs targeted in drug injury advertising over a one-year period. These individual reports were then aggregated on a weekly and monthly basis and analyzed to test associations between FAERS reporting volume and attorney advertising volume, relative Google search volume, media hits, and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) safety interventions. The study revealed no significant relationship between drug injury advertising volume and the volume of adverse event reports. By contrast, FDA safety actions, Google search volume, and media hits were positively correlated with FAERS reports.

*  Elizabeth C. Tippett, Associate Professor, University of Oregon School of Law; Brian K. Chen, Associate Professor, Arnold School of Public Health, University of South Carolina. The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose. We are grateful to Jacob Woods for processing the raw data from the FAERS database, Alexander Baker for research assistance with the media variable, and to Hayley Porter and Jordan Couey for research assistance with the citations. We are also grateful to the anonymous reviewers for their helpful feedback.

[1] Examining Ethical Responsibilities Regarding Attorney Advertising: Hearing before the H. Judiciary Comm.’s Subcomm. on the Constitution and Civil Justice (2017) (statement of Elizabeth Tippett, Associate Professor, Univ. of Or. Sch. of Law).

[2] Jesse King & Elizabeth Tippett, Drug Injury Advertising, 18 Yale J. of Health Pol’y, L. & Ethics 114, 114 (2019).

[3] Elizabeth Tippett, Medical Advice from Lawyers: A Content Analysis of Advertising for Drug Injury Lawsuits, 41 Am. J. L. & Med. 7, 89 (2015); Daniel M. Schaffzin, Warning: Lawyer Advertising May Be Hazardous to Your Health! A Call to Fairly Balance Solicitation of Clients in Pharmaceutical Litigation, 8 Charleston L. Rev. 319, 32425 (2013-14); Lars Noah, Giving Personal Injury Attorneys Who Run Misleading Drug Ads a Dose of Their Own Medicine, 2019 U. Ill. L. Rev. 701, 704 (2019).