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Is Netflix’s Painkiller Primarily based on a True Story?

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Is Netflix’s Painkiller Primarily based on a True Story?

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Netflix’s “Painkiller” tells the story of how one household constructed a enterprise that helped launch the opioid disaster, and the way they evaded actual penalties for a very long time even amid ongoing authorized struggles. The restricted collection, which premieres on Aug. 10, relies on Patrick Radden Keefe’s 2017 New Yorker article “The Household That Constructed an Empire of Ache” and Barry Meier’s guide “Ache Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America’s Opioid Epidemic,” which each chronicle how Purdue Pharma — led by the Sackler household — obscured the reality about their product OxyContin.

Are the Characters in “Painkiller” Primarily based on Actual Folks?

“Painkiller” is a scripted collection, but it surely sticks intently to real-life occasions because it traces the rise and fall of the Sackler household’s empire. Most of its fundamental characters are fictional, together with Edie Flowers (Uzo Aduba), a lawyer from Virginia who, within the collection, performs a key position in investigating the Sacklers’ empire. One other one in every of its fundamental plotlines follows Glen Kryger, a fictional mechanic who will get hooked on opioids after an harm, and a 3rd facilities West Duchovny as a fictional Purdue Pharma salesperson named Shannon Shaeffer.

Every one in every of these characters, whereas not based mostly on actual individuals, is a composite of various real-life tales. “Edie represents the entrance line,” director Pete Berg advised Netflix on July 11. “At the moment when OxyContin was simply beginning to be a factor and regulation enforcement everywhere in the nation was beginning to see deaths, crimes and tablet mills popping up, there was a gaggle of regulation enforcement who had been the primary wave to see the tragedy starting to unfold. They then needed to begin making an attempt to determine, ‘Properly, what’s going on right here?'”

A few of the characters featured within the collection are very actual, although, equivalent to Purdue Pharma executives Richard Sackler (Matthew Broderick) and Mortimer Sackler (John Rothman). In the meantime, Tyler Ritter performs Edie’s supervisor US Lawyer John Brownlee, who actually did work to efficiently convict Purdue Pharma of misbranding OxyContin in 2007, a narrative that fashioned the idea of Hulu’s 2021 collection “Dopesick.”

The True Occasions That Impressed “Painkiller”

“Painkiller” traces the Sackler household’s story from the start, beginning with brothers Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond Sackler, who purchased an organization referred to as Purdue Frederick in 1952, per the New Yorker. Arthur shortly realized that there was actual cash to be made in advertising and marketing capsules to the general public, although, and one in every of his early successes was Valium, which grew to become a phenomenon when it was launched in 1963. Shortly after Arthur’s loss of life in 1987, Mortimer and Raymond took over the corporate, which was renamed Purdue Pharma in 1991.

By 1996, one in every of Purdue’s fundamental income sources, a tablet referred to as MS Contin that was supposed for dying most cancers sufferers, was failing to show important income. That 12 months, although, Purdue developed and patented a model of MS Contin referred to as OxyContin. Per the Monetary Occasions, Richard noticed potential within the product and determined to focus the corporate’s power on it, declaring that his advertising and marketing method would set off “a blizzard of prescriptions that can bury the competitors.”

Purdue branded OxyContin as a drug that would cease all types of ache, from arthritis to again aches. They claimed it was efficient for 12 hours at a time, and likewise mentioned it was not addictive until sufferers already had addictive personalities, per the Nationwide Library of Drugs. Their advertising and marketing techniques included flying medical doctors to costly conferences and inspiring gross sales reps to type shut bonds with medical doctors, and their method was profitable, netting $3 billion by 2010, per the Los Angeles Occasions, and incomes them a complete of $10 billion total, per NPR.

It quickly grew to become obvious that OxyContin’s results wore off earlier than the 12-hour mark, although, and that it was way more addictive than marketed. Quickly, many sufferers discovered themselves hooked on a drug their medical doctors had advised them was secure — and but Purdue continued to push the product, releasing larger dosages and persevering with to considerably downplay the drug’s addictive potential of their advertising and marketing efforts, as documented by the LA Occasions. OxyContin’s success impressed different firms to start releasing related (and equally addictive) merchandise, and this unleashed an opioid epidemic that may declare tons of of 1000’s of lives.

In 2007, the US Justice Division launched a felony investigation that culminated in Purdue’s three high executives pleading responsible to fraud for minimizing the hazards of OxyContin of their advertising and marketing techniques. They had been in the end fined $635 million, per the LA Occasions. In 2022, the household agreed to pay $6 billion as a part of a lawsuit with a number of attorneys normal, per Reuters, although the settlement additionally sought to grant the household immunity from present or future civil lawsuits and the Sackler household has admitted no wrongdoing. Nonetheless, the settlement was blocked by the Supreme Court docket on Aug. 10, per CNN.

In the meantime, per the CDC, the opioid disaster value the US $1 trillion in 2017, and greater than 564,000 individuals have died from an overdose involving opioids between 1999 and 2020, in keeping with the CDC, and loss of life charges have quintupled since 1999. The primary wave of the disaster started within the Nineteen Nineties with the overprescription of artificial opioids like OxyContin, whereas medicine like heroin and fentanyl rose to prominence within the 2010. Per the CDC, opioids had been the reason for almost 75 p.c of the 91,799 drug overdose deaths that occurred within the US in 2020.

The disaster wasn’t completely brought on by the Sacklers alone, although, a incontrovertible fact that “Painkiller” govt producer Eric Newman wished to emphasise within the collection. “It is definitely not simply [about] the Sacklers,” he mentioned. “It is the political machine. It is the pharmaceutical industrial advanced. You possibly can’t perceive the epidemic until you have a look at the entire individuals. The individuals who did it, the individuals who let it occur, the individuals who suffered from it — and the individuals who blew the whistle on it.”

It is also onerous to know the human value of the opioid epidemic by studying statistics alone, however “Painkiller” additionally tries to focus on the real-life tales of individuals harmed by the disaster, and initially of each episode it options an actual one that has been personally affected by OxyContin. First, they learn a disclaimer reminding the viewers that the characters within the present aren’t actual — however then, briefly, they inform their very own story, reminding viewers that all-too-real occasions impressed each a part of what they’re about to look at.

“Painkiller” premieres on Netflix on Aug. 10.

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