Hillbilly Heroin maker bids to battle teen drug abuse

STAMFORD, CT: Purdue Pharma, makers of OxyContin, the nefarious

cancer pain medication known as "Hillbilly Heroin," has created a

campaign that warns teenagers about the dangers of prescription drug


The educational initiative, created with North Castle Partners, the

children's advertising agency that created the "Snap into a Slim Jim"

slogan, is being tested in four US cities, including Cincinnati,

Philadelphia, Palm Beach, FL, and Charleston, WV.

The nonbranded initiative, entitled "Painfully Obvious," warns about the

dangers of misusing prescription medications such as Codeine, Valium,

Vicodin, Dilaudid, and Fentanyl.

"Children 12 to 17 are among the fastest-growing group experimenting

with prescription drugs," said Robin Hogen, executive director of public

affairs for Purdue Pharma. "We wanted to send the message that if you

want to be a social outcast, do these drugs, because it will only create

uncool behavior."

In particular, Vicodin, made by Abbott Laboratories, has been associated

with a number of celebrities who have admitted to abusing the drug,

including actor Matthew Perry and singer/actress Courtney Love.

Purdue Pharma created public service announcements on radio stations in

the pilot cities to drive traffic to the website, painfullyobvious.com,

which has a variety of downloadable support material. The group also

sent out kits that included CDs with posters, brochures, and leadership


The campaign highlights prescription addiction and its side effects,

including projectile vomiting, shakes, sweating, and "explosive


"The media is asking if this is a good initiative, and I say that it's

currently the only prescription-drug-abuse plan targeting teens," said


Other communication initiatives that Purdue Pharma have taken include

hiring Landon Gibbs, the ex-head of the Virginia drug division unit, who

goes to conventions to speak to law enforcement agencies and police

departments to help them spot prescription-drug abusers.

Purdue Pharma has hired two new agencies to help out with its

communications efforts: Dewey Square Group in Tampa, FL and Harris

Deville in Baton Rouge, LA.

Hogen is optimistic that the barrage of negative attention surrounding

OxyContin is starting to abate. "We are a victim of being the drug du

jour. We're the newest kid on the block, and some of these other drugs

such as Vicodin have been around for twenty years," said Hogen. "We feel

that we have a responsibility to help educate about this problem. But we

also want the public to understand that there are 50 million chronic

pain sufferers in this country, and we want the media to tell their

story as well."

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