Painkiller follows the story of Purdue Pharma’s powerful drug OxyContin. The drug promised to improve the well-being of the general public, but it does more harm than good.
Netflix Original Painkiller recounts the opioid epidemic that began in the United States in the 1990s. It tells the story of Purdue Pharma, their drug OxyContin, and how it affected the lives of different people through three story arcs running alongside each other.
The main storyline sees Edie Flowers, who worked as an investigator with the U.S. attorney’s office, narrating her story of fighting the opioid crisis and Richard Sackler, the president of Purdue Pharma, to a group of lawyers who have managed to depose Sackler.
Edie’s narration and the show’s depiction of those events detail the origins of OxyContin and how it impacted the US drug market and the lives of its citizens.
Shannon Schaeffer’s subplot shows how Purdue Pharma trained good-looking college graduates and made them convince doctors to prescribe more OxyContin.
Glen Kryger’s story is the show’s standalone subplot that explores how regular citizens are introduced to the drug and how their lives are destroyed once they get addicted to what is deemed safe by their physician.
How much of Painkiller is based on a true story?
Painkiller is described as a fictionalized retelling of events that led to the creation of OxyContin and how it impacted the lives of US citizens.
While the key characters, like Richard Sackler, responsible for creating the drug are real-life figures, characters like Edie Flowers, Glen Kryger, and Shannon Schaeffer are completely fictional. Sackler’s part breaks down the creation and surge of OxyContin in depth.
The fictional characters, on the other hand, tell the story of many who are affected by the opioid epidemic in the United States, an extensive and ongoing overuse of opioid medications.
The marketing of OxyContin is tied to the opioid epidemic. The drug was marketed heavily and overprescribed despite the dangers it carried. Though some doctors were very hesitant about prescribing it, within five years, OxyContin generated a billion dollars a year after implementing an effective marketing plan.
The series picks up its research from Barry Meier’s book, Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America’s Opioid Epidemic, and Patrick Radden Keefe’s 2017 New Yorker Magazine article, The Family That Built an Empire of Pain.
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