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Project Hope: Multimedia Campaign

Painkillers kill more than pain.


Since 1980, 1.5 million people have died in car accidents in the U.S., while 3.3 million have died from prescription drug overdoses. But those deaths are not nearly as well publicized. To bring attention to this tragic issue, as well as to combat the rising epidemic of prescription painkiller abuse in Western New York, BlueCross BlueShield of Western New York, Mower and WNED-Western New York Public Broadcasting decided to speak up, hoping to spread awareness and prevent painkiller abuse.


After talking with many families who had suffered painful loss as a result of painkiller abuse, we were struck by two compelling issues. One is that painkiller addiction and abuse can happen to anyone. Previously viewed as a problem among poor, uneducated “druggies,” the abuse has reached epidemic status among people of all backgrounds, especially 12- to 24-year-olds. Second, many people believe that medications such as Vicodin and Oxycontin — that have been prescribed by a doctor — are safe.


Because access to these drugs is often through the family medicine cabinet and prescribed by well-meaning doctors, we reached out to parents and grandparents to build their awareness. Using the tagline “Painkillers Kill More than Pain,” the campaign told stories of local families who lost children to prescription painkillers. Television, radio, print and outdoor advertising, along with a 30-minute documentary and website, brought to life the pain and impact of these drugs. Combined with publicity and media outreach, the campaign garnered more than $3 million of earned media with over 50 million regional impressions.


Post-campaign survey results show that two out of three Western New Yorkers were aware of the campaign and a resounding 95 percent now recognize that prescription painkillers are highly addictive. In addition, 38 percent of respondents said they took some action based on the campaign (had a conversation with family or doctor, disposed of unused prescriptions).

In addition, the “Painkillers Kill” campaign won the Gold Healthcare Marketing IMPACT Award for Community Outreach Campaign of the Year from Modern Healthcare and Ad Age. 

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