Horizon Therapeutics and Area 23
Toxic Portraits

To convey the terrible pain caused by gout — and to unnerve the often insensitive specialists that treat gout patients  — this campaign delivered shocking images that took truth in advertising to a whole new level, using uric acid to create portraits of those suffering from the condition. 

Master printmakers matched the precise level of uric acid buildup in each patient to portraits they created, applying the acid to copper plates. That acid didn’t just etch the metal, it completely corroded it.

Accounts of patient suffering are not enough to compel rheumatologists and nephrologists to change their approach to treating gout. While they are sympathetic to patients with gout, they generally did not see gout as something they felt obligated to treat. This campaign went beyond emotional storytelling to physical evidence, demonstrating the toxicity of gout and uric acid and the destruction it can cause.

By showing how catastrophically this acid buildup destroys patients’ bodies and lives, it delivered a campaign that judges describe as “Brilliant — a smart strategy and beautifully done.”

Besides upending HCPs understanding of gout and uric acid from their training, this campaign accomplishes another important goal, targeting the persistent bias that gout is a white man’s disease. The effort didn’t present patients according to gender or race, but according to the corrosive risk that high uric acid poses to them.

Having captured the physical damage uric acid can do, it generated important conversations among unnerved providers. Doctors requested 1,000 prints and posters of the patients, and conversations about the work and the process led to requests for follow-up visits by sales representatives. 


Medexus Pharmaceuticals and Elevate Healthcare
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