TDA_Boulder Offers Dark Take on Purdue Pharma RFP: ‘Be a Hero With Heroin!’

By Patrick Coffee 

OxyContin 80 mg pills are shot in the studio on August 1, 2013. (Photo by Liz O. Baylen/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

In case you missed it, Adweek reported last Tuesday that Stamford, Conn.-based Purdue Pharma had begun a search for a new creative agency partner.

That story inspired one agency to create a scathing response that takes the maker of OxyContin to task for the perceived role it has played in facilitating America’s opioid epidemic. (One should note that a Purdue representative confirmed in the story above that any consumer RFP would not concern an opioid medication; the company announced last February that it would stop actively promoting the drug to doctors.)


But while we do not yet know who has been invited to the review, it’s safe to say  TDA_Boulder will not be pitching for the business.

That independent agency created an entire fake RFP to promote a new product: heroin. As the document’s opening page reads, “Purdue Pharma is launching a new product, Heroin, to follow up the success of their 2010 hit, OxyContin CII.”

This is very dark satire. It reads like a proper PDF and does not quite attempt to make light of an incredibly serious subject.

Another sample line from the “Introducing Heroin” segment reads, “Purdue Pharma believes everyone, no matter their income or age, deserves the highest high and most addictive addiction.”

TDA sent the fake PDF to a number of agencies in what would appear to be an attempt to discourage them from pitching for Purdue’s business. And again, this is a personal matter for many. One of the agencies that received this “RFP” was Venables Bell & Partners, and yesterday senior art director Aisha Hakim publicly spoke out on Twitter while sharing the fact that her brother died of an opioid overdose two years ago.

“I think it is hard to talk to somebody who does not care about someone who was impacted by the addictive nature of OxyContin,” wrote TDA_Boulder ECD and co-owner Jonathan Schoenberg. “The company is responsible for what might be the biggest health crisis ever in our country. When we saw they were looking for an agency for a new product launch, it seemed necessary to point out what they really are and hopefully agencies will think hard before they choose to take on the real RFP.”

Schoenberg told us his team sent the fake RFP to more than 50 “big agencies and small shops,” treating it as if it were the real thing.

Again, it is unclear at this time which agencies will be involved in the review.

One interesting fact is that none of the large healthcare-centered shops we contacted for the earlier story were aware of the RFP, meaning Purdue appears to be looking for a smaller organization that does not specialize in pharma products.

After that story went live last week, a party with knowledge of the real RFP also told AgencySpy the new product in question is Lemborexant, an insomnia drug developed by Purdue’s subsidiary Embrium Therapeutics in collaboration with Japanese company Eisai Co. Last month, the two companies announced that the FDA had accepted this medication for review based on data from two previous studies.

Purdue has not responded to a request for confirmation on the nature of the RFP or additional details regarding the agencies involved.

Yesterday, the Attorney General of Illinois became the latest of nearly 2,000 parties to sue Purdue. According to the Chicago Tribune, that suit claims the company’s “tactics tripled the number of opioid prescriptions in Illinois, exacerbating the deadly opioid crisis statewide.” Other reports state that Purdue has considered filing for bankruptcy to shield itself from these lawsuits, the first of which was settled last month for $270 million.

Plaintiffs’ attorneys have compared these cases to the class action suit against Big Tobacco, another deadly and heavily marketed product. It led to a settlement of nearly $250 billion approximately two decades ago.