Review of The Pharmacist Directed by Julia Willoughby Nason and Jenner Furst Rating *****
Ever since Making a Murderer started streaming on Netflix back in 2015, I’ve been a fan of docuseries. If you go to the sitemap page on this site and choose docuseries under categories, you’ll find an extensive list of excellent docuseries to stream. You can now add The Pharmacist to this list.
The Pharmacist is a four-episode docuseries available on Netflix. The innocuous title belies the seriousness of the subject matter. The first two episodes deal with a father’s search for his son’s killer. Dan Schneider’s son Danny is murdered while out trying to score drugs in a poor section of New Orleans. When the police fail to do a proper investigation, Dan sets out on his own to find the killer. Against all odds, Dan’s efforts are successful. You might expect that to be the end of this one-man crusade to right a wrong, but Dan is just getting started. He soon finds himself at the epicenter of the nascent opioid epidemic.
Working as a pharmacist, Dan starts noticing an alarming trend regarding prescriptions for OxyContin. He sees that over 98% of the prescriptions are coming from the same doctor. He sees similarities to his son in the young people who hand him prescriptions that seem out of line with their age and weight. Dan sets out to learn more about this doctor and her practice. What he uncovers is a burgeoning pill mill. Dan starts keeping track of individuals who come to him for their OxyContin pills. He secretly records them. He begins building a case against Dr. Jacqueline Clegett.
Dan reaches out to the FBI and the DEA to warn them of the dangers he has uncovered. The authorities, however, seem reluctant to do anything. Unbeknownst to Dan, the DEA is aware of the growing problem with Dr. Clegett, but the district attorney’s office refuses to prosecute. While the DEA and the district attorney’s office bicker over the seriousness of the problem, overdose deaths in New Orleans continue to rise. It’s not only frustrating to Dan but the viewer as well.
The opioid epidemic started in Republican-controlled states where opposition to regulations allowed pill mills to proliferate. Florida, under Governor Rick Scott, was adamantly against regulating the industry. Instead, they went after the users of the opioids, sending them to prison in record numbers. Meanwhile, companies like Purdue and the Sackler family made billions as legalized drug dealers. You can read more about this in the book American Pain. It took nearly a decade, and thousands of overdose deaths, before sensible prescription monitoring regulations were put into place.
Eventually, Dan Schneider helped put an end to Dr. Jacqueline Clegett’s business. He is an example of what one determined individual can accomplish. Once the cost of addiction treatment and emergency room visits started to overwhelm entire states, states attorney finally started going after the sources of the problem like Purdue Pharma rather than individual users. Unfortunately, their efforts were too little too late. The Sackler family shifted billions to overseas accounts and then filed for bankruptcy, leaving states to deal with the damage caused by their lack of oversight.
The filmmakers were lucky to stumble upon Dan Schneider. Not only was Dan a passionate advocate against injustice, he was meticulous in documenting all that he uncovered, which included documents, video, and recorded audio. On top of that, he served as the central narrator throughout.