UPDATED: Teva goes for the absurd in latest opioid addiction video series

The words "opioid abuse" don't exactly conjure up laughs, but that's exactly what Teva ($TEVA) is aiming for its in latest opioid abuse awareness effort. The company recently launched an absurdly humorous three-part video series to educate people about the phenomenon as part of its Pain Matters campaign.

The videos show real-life situations where people are struggling with opioid addiction, but they take a lighter tone. In one video, a man gives a friend a tour of his basement while his kids play ping pong. After showing off his sports memorabilia, the man talks up another prized collection: his pain meds from past surgeries.

In another, a woman and her friend wait in line at an event. When a bouncer checks her bag and finds her prescription painkillers, the woman says that they're not just for her; she also shares them with friends. Teva worked with Chicago PR firm Golin to craft the unusual approach.

"Most of the work around opioid abuse is very dark," Golin Executive Creative Director Geoffrey McCartney told Medical Marketing & Media. "We needed to find another way in and move away from moody and dark. So we came in with over-the-top absurdity that grabs people's attention."

The videos play into Teva's Pain Matters campaign. The initiative is trying to reinforce that "we're all a part of this problem, and we're all a part of the solution," Golin Executive Director and healthcare practice lead Samantha Schwartz said, as quoted by MM&M. Teva makes two fentanyl-based pain drugs, Actiq and Fentora, and a recent CDC report showed that fentanyl abuse was linked to nearly 1,000 deaths in Ohio.

"The series is intended to raise awareness of the importance of responsible pain medication use, storage and disposal. The scenarios depicted in the videos are designed--with a layer of exaggeration--to demonstrate just how easy it is for someone to obtain another person's prescription pain medication when not stored or disposed of properly," Teva told FiercePharmaMarketing in an email. 

Teva's opioid abuse ads come as regulators and the government take a tougher stance on pain meds. Earlier this month, the CDC issued new guidelines that would drastically cut opioid painkiller use. A week later, the FDA slapped immediate-release opioids with black-box warnings that warn of serious risks of misuse, addiction, overdose and in some cases, death.

"Today's actions are one of the largest undertakings for informing prescribers of risks across opioid products, and one of many steps the FDA intends to take this year as part of our comprehensive action plan to reverse this epidemic," new FDA commissioner Robert Califf said at the time.

- read the MM&M story