The Super Bowl has become as much about commercials as the game. One ad stood out for some because it was about opioid induced constipation, but it was one particularly mean reaction to the ad that set off a firestorm on Twitter.
Comedian Bill Maher tweeted, “Was that really an ad for junkies who can’t shit? America, I luv ya but I just can’t keep up.”
That tweet got under the skin of chronic pain sufferers.
Maher’s Twitter feed is getting hammered by people who took offense. And among those who took offense was Paul Gileno, President and Founder of US Pain Foundation. Gileno fired off this letter to Maher in a response that is more than 140 characters.
Last night, comedian and political commentator Bill Maher, commented on the patient-education ad airing during the Super Bowl about opioid-induced constipation (OIC). As a person with pain and the founder of U.S. Pain Foundation, the largest patient-advocacy organization ensuring people with pain are heard and validated, I found his tweet (“Was that really an ad for junkies who can’t shit? America, I luv ya but I just can’t keep up”) appalling, disingenuous and dangerous.
Bill Maher single-handedly labeled all people with pain as junkies. I take extreme offense to this statement. It is this ignorant mindset that is harming the 100 million Americans living with pain from receiving the adequate care they need as well as the support they deserve. In the current health care landscape, chronic pain patients are continually forced to “prove” their pain. They face backlash and ridicule instead of compassion and help.
U.S. Pain Foundation collaborated on this ad with other organizations to spread awareness and information. The intention was to provide hope and resources to those facing a serious condition brought on by following a legitimate treatment program. The goal – for all involved on this project – was to make sure people living with OIC do not feel embarrassed or alone. It therefore saddens and angers me that those with high profiles would choose to increase the stigma associated with chronic pain without researching the pain care crisis in America.
Mr. Maher, let me inform you:
- According to the 2011 IOM Report, 100 million Americans live with chronic pain caused by many different illnesses, conditions or injuries.
- Chronic pain affects all races, religions, sexes and ages.
- In 2015, The National Pain Strategy incorporated these four core beliefs from the Consumer Pain Advocacy Task Force into their plan.
- Chronic pain is a real and complex disease that may exist by itself or be linked with other medical conditions.
- Chronic pain is both an under-recognized and under-resourced public health crisis with devastating personal and economic impact.
- Effective chronic pain care requires access to a wide range of treatment options, including biomedical, behavioral health and complementary treatment.
- Denying appropriate care to people with chronic pain is unethical and can lead to unnecessary suffering, depression, disability and even suicide.
I recognize the problem (rather epidemic) of addiction in America, and as organization, we work to create educational materials and resources so people with pain can make the best decisions on their personal journey. However, addiction and pain are two separate issues plaguing our nation; both of which are undertreated, underfunded, misunderstood and stigmatized. Sadly, though, it appears no one wants to address the injustices within the pain community. Who is taking the needs of this large group seriously? Who is ensuring legitimate people with pain have access to treatments needed? It is time to stop shaming those who are desperately trying to find relief and are searching for quality of life.
Bill Maher, I get that you are a comedian. I hope that you were just trying to be funny. But now I implore you to stand with your fellow Americans who face daily challenges because of the lack of education and compassion from the public, especially the media. Join U.S. Pain Foundation in stopping the stigmas associated with all legitimate forms of treatment that bring relief to those suffering. Support 100 million individuals who are dealing with limited access to care.
I am hoping you will work with us to address the need for a balanced approach to pain management, understanding that for some pain medicine is part of the over-all treatment plan but not the final answer. Your voice could help create change for both these epidemics. Thank you, and I look forward to having a conversation with you soon.
Founder & President, U.S. Pain Foundation
The ad was produced for AstraZeneca whose drug, Movantik, is FDA approved for the treatment of constipation caused by taking opioids for long periods of times.
You can see the ad here:
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