With ‘stabbing knives’ and ‘hammering’ pain, AbbVie endometriosis awareness push gets real

AbbVie's new endometriosis disease awareness campaign looks to encourage women to speak up as well as spur greater public awareness. (AbbVie)

Endometriosis is painful for women. How painful? In the words of a TV actor for AbbVie’s new disease awareness campaign Speak Endo, it’s “like stabbing knives” with “hammering” levels of pain. But it's pain that women don't always talk about.

The TV ad is set in a doctor’s office where a young woman’s personified self pushes her to be honest about the pain. When the woman tells the doctor her problem is “just some cramps,” her second self jumps in saying, "Hold on. Say it’s like stabbing knives. Sometimes I have to call in sick.”

When the woman again downplays her pelvic pain, describing it with “kinda,” her personified self isn’t having it. “Kinda? Say it’s like something hammering at my uterus even when it’s not my period.”

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AbbVie, which is developing a treatment for endometriosis pain, created the campaign based on research with more than 1,000 women who have endometriosis or are undiagnosed with symptoms. It’s built on the insight that women often hold back in talking about symptoms to their doctors because they’ve been told in the past that painful periods are normal or “just part of being a woman.” Speak Endo is running on TV, streaming radio, online ads and in social media.

“Despite being one of the most common gynecologic disorders in America, there is a lack of awareness and prioritization of endometriosis as an important women’s health issue,” an AbbVie spokeswoman said in an email. “The target audience for SpeakENDO is women of reproductive age who suffer from symptoms associated with endometriosis, but we also hope to elevate widespread awareness of the disease given its prevalence.”

AbbVie and partner Neurocrine Biosciences received an FDA priority review in October for elagolix, a phase 3 prospect for the management of endometriosis and associated pain. Meanwhile, competitor Allergan is working to bring Esmya, a uterine fibroid therapy, to market with its partner Gedeon Richter, and is also in phase 3 trials.

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In a previous endometriosis awareness campaign, AbbVie partnered with actor and dancer Julianne Hough for an online effort called the “Me in Endometriosis.” The dedicated website MEinENdo.com, launched last spring, now redirects to SpeakEndo.com.

The response to the new work, which launched Jan. 15, has been positive, AbbVie reported.

“Many women have contacted AbbVie directly expressing gratitude for the SpeakENDO campaign. We hope SpeakENDO.com becomes a go-to resource for women who want to learn more about endometriosis, those trying to find out what may be causing their symptoms and women already diagnosed with endometriosis,” the spokeswoman said.