BioDelivery Sciences turns invisible pain into high-color art for gallery show

One of the pieces created by artist Trina Merry in the "This is Pain" campaign from BioDelivery Sciences (Trina Merry)

A picture is worth a thousand words. And sometimes it’s a whole art gallery—as is the case for the new awareness campaign from BioDelivery Sciences International (BDSI) called “This is Pain.”

The campaign's centerpiece is a gallery display of colorful photographs depicting body-painted pain sufferers—designed to bring an often invisible condition to light—at New York’s Oculus from Dec. 12-15.

Visual artist Trina Merry represents that chronic suffering with searing imagery such as lightning streaks, marionette strings and cacti needles rendered in striking colors. BDSI worked with the advocacy group American Chronic Pain Association and actual patients who agreed to be painted and featured in the art pieces.

“I know this campaign is called 'This is Pain,’ but I can just imagine people looking at these images and saying, ‘This is me. Finally someone understands,’” said Penney Cowan, founder of the American Chronic Pain Association and a person living with chronic pain.

"It’s going to reduce some of the stigma," Cowan said, "but I hope it also increases access to care for so many people living with pain.”

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Along with the artwork, which will live online at after the exhibit, singer and actress Kristin Chenoweth is stepping up as a spokesperson for the campaign.

Chenoweth, who was injured on a TV set by a falling light back in 2012, is sharing her story about life dealing with chronic pain, including the stigma of the often invisible condition. An estimated 10 million Americans live with chronic pain.

“Even though we’ve made significant advancements in the understanding of the disease and the management of the disease, we’re far away from providing physicians with the tools they really need,” said Herm Cukier, CEO of BDSI, adding that the timing is particularly important as the opioid epidemic has added to the stigma and burden of chronic pain sufferers.

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The art show and collaboration with Chenoweth are just the beginning for “This is Pain,” which BDSI plans as a long-term initiative. The company markets Belbuca, a pain med on a film meant to be placed inside the cheek. It had co-marketed the drug with Endo but reacquired sole rights in late 2016.

“There are millions of patients who are suffering from chronic pain. They’re our neighbors, they’re our family members, and they live in our community, so it doesn’t just affect them, it affects all of us," Cukier said. "And it’s going to take all of us to come together to make this change happen and this campaign is meant to energize that.”