Bill Maher’s Reaction to OIC Super Bowl Ad Gets Its Own Reaction

Bill Maher’s Reaction to OIC Super Bowl Ad Gets Its Own Reaction

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:

  1. According to the 2011 IOM Report, 100 million Americans live with chronic pain caused by many different illnesses, conditions or injuries.
  2. Chronic pain affects all races, religions, sexes and ages.
  3. In 2015, The National Pain Strategy incorporated these four core beliefs from the Consumer Pain Advocacy Task Force into their plan.
    1. Chronic pain is a real and complex disease that may exist by itself or be linked with other medical conditions.
    2. Chronic pain is both an under-recognized and under-resourced public health crisis with devastating personal and economic impact.
    3. Effective chronic pain care requires access to a wide range of treatment options, including biomedical, behavioral health and complementary treatment.
    4. 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.

Paul Gileno

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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Terri Young

The remarks made by Bill Maher were very upsetting and I was disappointed because I always liked him before and I swear to you I never know which hurts worse being in terrible pain every single day or having people judge you because they are lucky enough not to have to suffer as I and many others are. It was very hurtful what he said.


People who give Maher a pass because what he said was a “joke” are not getting the point. If Maher had said something so hurtful about African Americans, would it still be okay because it was meant to get a laugh? Being a comedian doesn’t give anyone the right to say things that cause other’s to feel hurt. Some of the comments I have read here show a lack of compassion and understanding of why many of us take opiates. One post actually tells us to learn to live with Tylenol and tough it out. Sorry, but Tylenol and other over-the-counter remedies don’t touch my pain.

Opiates have worked for me where two surgeries, tons of epidurals, acupuncture and a myriad of other treatments have completely failed. So, why am I supposed to feel shame and guilt because I take the only thing that gives me a modicum of relief? I’m tired of having to justify my use of opiates to treat horrible, dibilitating pain. I’m tired of being compared to those who misuse something meant to help those of us who have chronic pain. I don’t care if I’m “addicted”. I take the medication as directed and have never sought more illegally. Bill Maher should be ashamed of styigmitizing so many who live with chronic pain. One thing, though. The ad was rather ridiculous. Constipation as a result of opiate use shouldn’t be treated like a joke. It’s a real health issue and should be respected as such. What? Are we all children?


Dear “Oh Good Grief” Gene,

I have CRPS, causing burning pain in both legs from hips to toes. How dare you call me an addict because I lean on painkillers to dull the pain. (DULL: the pain is never gone). How dare you assume everyone’s bodies are like yours? How dare you call me and my fellow CRPSers who utilize medication addicts. “Let one who is without sin (eh hem, pain) cast the first stone.” You, Gene, make me sick. What you’ve been familiar with is short stints of pain, ACUTE pain, we are in CHRONIC PAIN. Pain that will NOT go away. Please educate yourself on the difference before spewing hate and erroneous statements. Thanks so much!

D Parker

Being heard by actually uniting as a herd is the only way this community is ever going to be noticed. It’s the only way we are going to withstand the current barrage of jargon comming from PROP and now the political arena.

By all means treat drug addictions. But do not contend that correlation, is in fact causation.

Why do folks who don’t want to be a part of this community comment here?
There are plenty of platforms, blogs, etc. for you to join to argue against the pain community. Why then do you waste your time here where we all clearly see your socialist agenda. Healthcare treatment is unique to the individual. If you don’t require medications it has absolutely no bearing on anyone else’s unique situation. Any doctor will tell you that patients react differently to Different stimuli.

Doc Anonymous

Well there seems to be no public response from Bill Maher, so I guess that means he continues with his disdain for those who suffer from truly severe disabling chronic pain. His ridicule of a class of disabled Americans is disheartening.

Alvin Hill

DParker: Is that a pun? “Stand together and be herd.” If it is an intentional play on words, then it’s actually not bad. But otherwise it’s just sad.


Oh good grief! I was told at age 20 that I would have pain the rest of my life and I had to learn to live with pain. I have a severe disabling form of RA. I have artificial joints, had to retire early, and hurt every day of my life. I have had a pain pill for two or three weeks after total knee replacements and once or twice for trips in the 43 years. My doctors do not prescribe opioids. I am shocked there are so many hooked on pain meds..and yes, you are addicted, if on them every day or perhaps you prefer dependent on them. People at the end of life that are given meds must have them. If you have one of the many arthritis diseases and related diseases that cause severe pain each day…you need to learn to live with allege or Tylenol.

Lisa W

Bill Maher is a disgrace! ! I suffer from RSD/CRPS, never heard of it? ? Look it up and learn. I personally have days that I can’t get out of bed due to the pain I have. I have passed out from my pain because I try not to take my meds because of people like him and a lot of you on here. I have had 4 concussions in the past year from my pain getting so severe that my legs give out and I hit my head. I’ve gone through so much, I have had surgeries, nerve blocks, a spinal cord stimulator and none of that worked so to be calling people like me who need medication to try and live a somewhat normal life junkies, how dare you! ! Fight you say, that’s all I have done for the last 15 years of my life, there is NO CURE, I would give anything to be the person I was 15 years ago that had no limitations as to what I could do. People who don’t know what it’s like to live like this have no right whatsoever to put us down. My disease is at the very top of the pain scale, higher than cancer, higher than having a limb removed with no anesthesia, I wouldn’t wish this disease on my worst enemies but I would love for some of you to TRY and deal with it for just 1 week with the rain, snow, humidity, stress and doing normal daily things like walk. It’s not called whining, it’s called facts! ! Learn a little about my life then let’s talk! !


Ok u be in charge of these things. That would be appreciated.


‘The is why the pain community is in shambles.

Stand together and be herd, “oh wait, it was just Bill trying to be funny.”

All of you are the reason this community could never unite on any issue. This is why political personalities think were a joke.

You Disgrace your own….

AJ Hill

Once again I see a collection of whiny, self-indulgent comments, that fail to address effectively the most pressing problem for people with chronic pain. Are there really 100 million chronic pain sufferers in the U.S.? If so, then why aren’t we using forums like this one to organize? Speaking (and voting!) as a single bloc we could elect effective representation and drive the fanatical prohibitionists out of the FDA and other regulatory agencies. We could force those in power to recognize us and to provide us the resources we need in order to lead more fulfilling lives. We could. But we don’t! The gun lobby does it and they’re only a couple of million gun nuts.
This column should contain just one kind of comment, which is: “Yes, I’m ready to fight! Sign me up.” And it should contain just one crucial bit of information: where people can sign up in order to fight. If you’re asking yourself right now, “Why doesn’t this joker provide the info himself?” you’re absolutely right. I should and I will. And then I don’t want to see any more of your weepy, self-pitying blather. (You know who you are.)

To El – FYI last year the profits were $866 million dollars. US sales

So it looks like junkies aren’t the customers using the product. Could be those millions of patients who suffer from severe chronic pain and need to use opiates on a daily basis.

Maher ‘s comment didn’t offend only a few it’s more like 35 million.

Thank you,

John S


I laughed so hard I forgot my pain for a few minutes. Drink some prune juice and lighten up.

Dan Seibert

Lighten up people. If this was a serious commercial it wouldn’t have puppies and a dork adult male in it. And it would have run on the Today show, not the Super Bowl. Maher was 100% correct.


people get offended by anything these days. you know all you have to do, really, is hit the “unfollow” tab and poof! offensive language gone.

James Twomey

Oh, come on, get over it people! It was a joke. Whenever I see that add I kind of feel the same way as Maher. Using the word opioid brings to mind opium which brings to mind heroin among other things. I watched the Maher show and I guess I heard that joke but I have to admit I do not remember it from the show. But now it is being brought to the attention of many people and they will probably be trying yo find a way to see Maher’s monologue.

Having Trigeminal Neuralgia one of the worst pains known to mankind, I’m deeply offended by comments like his and it make me feel hopeless that we will ever be understood or treated with compassion.
There is no cure for my disease and if I live to be 80 I will have spent 42 years on various medications to treat my symptoms.
If I’m lucky not being able to poop will be the least of my complications due to long term use of medications that we have no other choice but to take.
Does that make me a junkie? No, it makes me a patient with a very horrible disease.
I hope the chuckle at our expense was worth it cause we are paying for it with our lives…


Here’s what I don’t understand: How big of a market could constipated people on opioids actually be? Hardly seems like the increased sales from that ad could exceed the $1 million it cost to air it during the Superbowl!

Robert Henry Eller

Bill Maher is a comedian known for his nothing-is-sacred approach to humor. Comedians themselves are kind of addicted to trying to be funny, which is not easy. They float all kinds of attempts at humor. Edgier comedians will tend to go over the line.

However, whether you are hurt or even just offended by Mr. Maher’s tweet, I’m sure he meant no harm. He’s not mean-spirited. We all know people suffering chronic pain. I have no doubt Maher knows, and is close to, his share of sufferers.

Further, he’s certainly sympathetic to people in pain, and not against people taking , for medicinal or recreational purposes. I would be surprised if Maher doesn’t respond positively to Paul Gileno’s letter.

Doc Anonymous

There is a legal concept called “libel per se”. Essentially it means that words written are so outrageous that they constitute libel with no need of proof. You can look it up on Google or Bing or any other search engine. What Maher did, in my estimation, was “LIBEL PER SE” against all who are tortured daily by chronic pain. You probably won’t find any lawyer with enough guts to take the case, but any one who suffers from chronic pain would have a good case against Maher for this “Libel Per Se”. I think all of us should ask Twitter to take down the post and also to ban Maher from further tweets.


It is so sad how much of an overreaction this got. It was a joke and sounds like many from his show. Thank goodness we have the PC warriors to set the record straight and make sure no one laughs again.

[…] a lot of painkiller for a country with a population of 300 million. It’s not surprising that Bill Maher promptly tweeted after the OIC ad: “Was that really an ad for junkies who can’t sh–? America, I luv ya but I just […]

Kathy DeMaio

Bill Maher should be ashamed of himself for calling people in pain junkies. His comments were ignorant and disgusting. He should only know what never ending pain is like. Although I don’t take pain meds, many who suffer do. That does not make them addicts. He should educate himself before making such discrimTing comments. He is lucky no to suffer as we chronic pain patients do. One day, he may not be so lucky and see what real pain is like.

Veronica Clark

I applaud Paul Gileno’s letter – but I do not think anyone anywhere should be making a joke of pain sufferers. It’s never been, nor will it ever be, a joke.
I fought taking pain meds for years, until I just couldn’t even live with myself anymore, nor could anyone else. I couldn’t move, my migraines were over the top, and the pain just unbearable.
I had to take a ‘test’ to see what I could, and could not, do – prior to having a hearing for disability. It wasn’t a necessity, but my doctor suggested it. It was the best idea EVER given to me from any doctor. It was a variety of things – memory, building blocks, balancing, walking up and down stairs, etc.. I ended up having to run to the bathroom and vomit, because they caused a migraine so severe, I couldn’t take it. That test alone, is what every pain sufferer should have to go through, unless their pain is evident. Mine isn’t. Mine doesn’t ‘show’. I say this because I was in line at Walmart, waiting for my prescriptions, when a lady in front of me said she also had fibromyalgia, told me her doctors name (this doc is very old), and said she forgot for 4 days to come get her pain meds. Then, she proceeded to jump up and down in excitement, as the line started moving. Seriously?? She scammed the doc, and our entire system. I can’t jump up and down – it would kill me!! She had no pain at all.
There has to be something set in place for these type of people to be ‘tested’ as I was. That alone will help eliminate the ‘druggies’. The ones who commit suicide, I hate to say it, but if they didn’t have pain meds to do it, they would find another way. Fact of life, and death. This also comes from personal experiences.
Thank you Paul, for your letter. It was well written, and I hope it gets results. You are indeed who we need for our voice!

I think that it is a sad day when Bill Maher can get away with discriminating against the entire pain population by calling us “junkies” simply because he calls himself a “comedian.” So tomorrow he can discriminate against other races and sexual orientations simply because he is a comedian? Is that ok too? Maybe he already does that. I wouldn’t know. I don’t watch his show. Now I never will.
Honestly, he isn’t just talking about the chronic pain population. I am a chronic pain patient and I have not taken pain meds for years. However, when I recently ruptured a disc, I did have to go onto some pain meds. Maybe not everyone has a chronic pain issue, but ANYONE can have an accident and have the need for narcotics. OIC is a problem for most that take narcotics.
I hope that Bill walks around in bubble wrap. I hope that he never has an injury. I hope that he never needs pain meds. And I hope that he never experiences OIC.
On the other hand….Walk a mile Bill…..walk a mile…..

To the pain patients that are offended by Bills’s disgusting tweet, use his filth to motivate you. Don’t stoop to his level. Make a positive change. Join US Pain Foundation and let your voice be heard. There is no charge and you can be a pain ambassador right from your own living room. Rise above, my friends. Rise above!


Bill Mahr, you are pathetically ignorant of chronic pain sufferers, what they go through for legitimate treatment and the hellish lives they suffer. Your thoughtless comment perpetuates the erroneous thought that everyone who takes pain meds is a junkie. Google RSD/CRPS for just one of the many chronic pain conditions that destroys lives, families and livelihoods. We lose too many to suicide because of this nightmare of a disease and the stigma that people like you perpetuate make it almost impossible for far too many to receive treatment that can aid them in their suffering. For you to use your high profile to put forth your cruel tweet is heartless. You owe us all an apology.

Danny Elliott

I emailed Maher through HBO (I don’t Twitter). I, too, appreciate Paul Gileno’s response. I wonder how Mr. Maher will feel about such ads when he suffers chronic, severe pain. Everyone, more than likely, will deal with it at some point in their lives.


I did not choose to be hit by a drunk driver, I didn’t choose to have 4 herniated discs and tear both rotator cuffs, I didn’t choose to develop Fibromyalgia and become disabled. The Fibro drugs don’t work for me, so all I have is pain control! I do not get high from my meds because I really have pain and therefore my body produces “Substance P” which is what the pain meds interact with. People that get high from opioids are not in pain or not enough pain for dosage given! So yes, I may be full of crap most of the time, but I know what I’m talking about!


The comments made by Bill Maher, White House Chief of Staff Denus McDonough, and others on Twitter in response to the SB50 OIC ad is just apalling. I wish I could say I’m surprised, but I’m not. The stigma surrounding Chronic Pain patients and their treatment is growing exponentially. We are not addicts, we are patients. I have four different conditions that contribute to my chronic pain including CRPS (rated as one of the most painful conditions known to science). Bill Maher would go insane if he had to deal with my level of pain for just one day. Pain patients are survivors, not addicts. I encourage everybody reading this article to respond to Bill Maher and Denis McDonough directly on Twitter. He needs to know that we take this seriously.

I also think that is very sad that what could have been a really empowering moment for chronic pain patients has been turned into another debate about whether or not we’re all addicts.


Im glad Paul spoke out about Mahers comments. And don’t we know its symbolizes the cruelty of the larger society toward people in pain. And lets face it Secretary Burwell, Obama, and professional organizations in health care have failed people in pain by portraying them as careless drug users. And we have Senators like Machin who are monomaniacs with regard to substance use- but show no humanity with regard to people in pain. So our politicians are creating prejudice and cruelly adding insult onto injury for people in pain.
This election year- you have an opportunity to vote for those who will be responsive and humane-and ask them to replace those people in DHHS who promote prejudice toward people in pain

Carla Cheshire

The saddest thing is the almost 4,000 people that “liked” his statement.

Doc Anonymous

Stigma is the consequence of actions that express bigoted ideas. Bill Maher applied stigma to those who have severe torturous daily pain. Does that mean he is a bigot? Perhaps when it comes to people in pain.


I also the white house press secretary could use a talking to also.