Review of the Netflix drama series PainKiller
The opioid epidemic has been covered in books and documentaries. I’ve always thought that the people behind the pills were legalized drug dealers. This series looks at the Sackler family and how their pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma made it all happen by flooding the marketplace with pills while at the same time lying to doctors and patients about the addictive nature of the drug.
In the book American Pain, the author describes how a lack of regulation and oversight, especially in the state of Florida, allowed the epidemic to take hold. The book also showed how police went after the addicts rather than the people making and selling the drugs. This series tells the story of how regulators finally went after the source of the drugs.
There are six one-hour episodes. Each episode begins with the story of an opioid victim as told by a family member. One of the things the series does well is show the downward spiral of an addict and the impact on those around them. That side of the epidemic is shown in the story of an auto mechanic who injures his back in a work accident. That leads to a prescription for OxyContin to help control his pain after surgery. His struggles with addiction play out over the six episodes. The character might be fictionalized, but it is based on thousands of pain patients who also succumbed to addiction.
Mathew Broderick plays the role of Richard Sackler. He does a great job of playing a scumbag who is only interested in making money regardless of the lives destroyed.
The series tells four intertwined stories. The story of the aforementioned auto mechanic, a storyline involving Purdue Pharma sales reps, the Sackler family, and finally the state attorney’s office that finally brings charges of fraud against the Sacklers.
I recommend that after you watch this you watch the excellent docuseries The Pharmacist.