Crime of the Century: How Big Pharma Fueled the Opioid Crisis That Killed 500,000 and Counting

But that gives you some sense of the three-part structure of this crime, and also the blurry line between licit pharmaceutical sales and, essentially, cartel sales. As national attention turned to the opioid epidemic, Schneider continued in his efforts to take down Cleggett. Schneider grew obsessive in his fight against the spread of the opioid crisis, according to the numerous audio recordings he provided for the series. He ended up collaborating with the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration and other authorities that were independently investigating Cleggett, which eventually resulted in her license being suspended.

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  • Netflix original, is one of the few that doesn’t dramatize or wallow in the cyclic tragedy of ecstatic heroin highs, the scratching withdrawal pangs.
  • Dopesick also offers an authentic portrayal of the small, working class, predominantly white communities ravaged by the opioid crisis.
  • Today’s opioid addiction epidemic is the worst man-made public health epidemic in American history.

If you’re an average layperson looking to get a comprehensive, well-researched intro to the opioid epidemic, this PBS documentary is a great place to start. Beautiful Boy chronicles the heartbreaking experience of meth addiction through an at times tense, at times touching father and son relationship over the years. Ben is Back sees Julia Roberts as a mother coping with the sudden return of her 19-year-old addict son on Christmas Eve. We’ll speak with Christopher Eagle Bear from a Native American youth council that helped bring them home. Documentary titled The Crime of the Century, which traces the origins of the opioid epidemic and those who enabled it.

Character actor extraordinaire Michael Stuhlbarg plays Purdue Pharma’s onetime president Richard Sackler with the creepy intensity of a Bond villain. Disrespected by his relatives and driven to outdo the accomplishments of his uncle Arthur Sackler — who pioneered the marketing strategy for Valium — Stuhlbarg’s Richard Sackler pushes the family-owned company to heavily market OxyContin. Gibney talked with Morning Edition about how the opioid crisis took off over the past 20 years, with the help of lobbyists and doctors, and the role of the Department of Justice. But Purdue Pharma is often singled out for sparking the opioid crisis with its aggressive marketing of its drug OxyContin in the 1990s. It’s a well-crafted exposé of addiction in what some call the “crossroads of America,” and one of the few that focuses on the role that Mexican cartels and drug trafficking have had in exacerbating the epidemic. Elaine McMillion Sheldon, who also directed “Heroin,” brings a raw look at addiction and recovery, proving how difficult it is not only to find a treatment center but also to find support once returning home.

Understanding the Opioid Epidemic

Hall, the son of Redding’s best friend, was 15 years old when he killed Danny Jr. He pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 2000 and served 13 years of a 15-year prison sentence, according to the documentary. Hall, who appears in the series, tells filmmakers he took his time in prison to try and better himself, finish school and work on anger management. But the series reveals how those who began to abuse the drug here’s why you wake up early after a night of drinking learned to crush the tablets into a powder that could be inhaled and was highly addictive. Eventually, prosecutors noticed that small towns where people hadn’t locked their doors for decades were drowning in crime and desperation. John Kapoor, the founder of the drugmaker Insys, was sentenced to five-and-a-half years in prison for masterminding a scheme to bribe doctors to prescribe a dangerous painkiller.

“The Trade” was directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Matthew Heineman who also directed “Cartel Land,” which was nominated for an Academy Award and took home three Primetime Emmys. “The Pharmacist” is the story of pharmacist Dan Schneider, who works to find justice for his son, effective treatments for alcohol use disorders killed while buying crack. Schneider then realizes young people are coming to his pharmacy with prescriptions for high doses of the powerful opioid OxyContin. Not willing to lose any more sons and daughters, Schneider tapes conversations and begins a fight against Big Pharma.

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2.Part Two While pharmaceutical companies mass-market the synthetic opioid fentanyl, lawmakers continue to grease the opioid pipeline. But now one of the big problems is that an enormous demand has been created because you have a lot of people who are addicted. And one of his patients was a woman named Carol Bosley, who had suffered a terrible neck injury as a result of a car accident. She became terribly addicted to opioids as a result of prescription of a number of narcotics.

Purdue Pharma was the subject of Hulu’s 2021 series, “Dopesick,” which focused on the company’s knowledge about OxyContin and how it pushed its sales reps to convince doctors the drug was not addictive. The Food and Drug Administration backed Purdue and set the stage for the drug epidemic that took a hold of the nation. Purdue has agreed to dissolve as a business and the Sackler family, which runs the company, has agreed to pay $4.5 billion in a bankruptcy settlement. Many who have struggled with opioid addiction, or who have lost a loved one due to OxyContin addiction, are angry that the Sacklers will likely remain one of the wealthiest families in the nation. Gibney sheds light on the changes the medical community was asked to make to accommodate opioids, including how doctors should expand and rethink the meaning of breakthrough pain, and how pain was the fifth vital sign.

Heroin is a stark portrayal of three women on the front lines of the opioid epidemic in Huntington, West Virginia, where there’s an overdose rate of 10 times the national average. Created in association with the Center for Investigative Reporting and directed by Peabody Award-winning filmmaker Elaine McMillion Sheldon, the film is Oscar- and Emmy-nominated. The first season of this Showtime documentary focuses on the opioid epidemic. From Mexican cartels to middle America, the show chronicles the struggle opioids have brought with them.

North Kentucky Hates Heroin

West Virginia, a predominantly blue-collar state, exemplifies the cyclical nature of a drug crisis. A lot of people in these rural areas are employed in physical labor, get injured and receive pills through legitimate means. A record number of drug overdoses, an increase driven at least partially by synthetic opioid use. After they’ve exhausted other options, chronic pain patients try a new approach to treat and cure their pain. “This Might Hurt” documents their time with Dr. Howard Schubiner, who gets to the root of their pain by revealing the buried trauma causing it.

Between 2000 and 2001, abuse of OxyContin around the United States became widespread, prompting closer attention from national media. St. Bernard Parish, which had a population of about 75,000 at the time, became known as one of the hubs of the epidemic, with one of the highest per capita overdose rates alcoholics anonymous in Louisiana, according to the series, and the community received coverage from national outlets. A December 2000 TIME article referenced in the series described an “epidemic” of OxyContin abuse in St. Bernard Parish, noting that at the time, at least five people in the town had overdosed on the drug.

These obstacles did not stop Schneider, who continued his own investigation by calling every house in the area. He also started keeping meticulous recordings of the conversations he had, including with the potential witnesses in his son’s murder case. The audio recordings, often played over images of the Schneider family, the pharmacy where Schneider worked or shots of Schneider in his home, make up much of the series. Eventually, Schneider found Shane Redding — a nearby resident who said she had witnessed the crime. Redding revealed that the killer was, in fact, Jeffery Hall — the initial eyewitness.

His search led him to Dr. Jacqueline Cleggett, who ran a pain management clinic in New Orleans and wrote most of the prescriptions that patients brought to the pharmacy. According to Schneider, the prescriptions were similar, often prescribing 40 mg or more of OxyContin along with other medications like Xanax and Soma (taken together, the combination of drugs was known as the “holy trinity”). Cleggett, described as running a “pill mill,” was one of several doctors around the country who sold prescriptions for such drugs for profit.

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All the Beauty and the Bloodshed , which won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival last year, chronicles Goldin’s career and her activism in the wake of her own years-long recovery from opioid addiction, a time she describes as “a darkness of the soul”. All the Beauty and the Bloodshed , the documentary following renowned artist Nan Goldin’s campaign against members of the billionaire Sackler family and their role in the opioid crisis, has been nominated for an Academy Award in the Best Documentary Feature category. If director Laura Poitras wins, she will be just one of a handful of documentarians to have earned a pair of Academy Awards over the course of her career. Her documentary Citizenfour , about whistleblower Edward Snowden and the National Security Agency spying scandal, won the Oscar in the same category in 2015. ‘Dopesick’ tells the story of America’s opioid crisis The new miniseries, adapted from journalist Beth Macy’s critically acclaimed book, shows opioid addiction ravaging one rural Virginia town. This Oscar-nominated film follows three women — a fire chief, a judge and a street missionary — battling West Virginia’s devastating opioid epidemic.

But in The Pharmacist, the resolution of Danny Jr.’s murder is really just the beginning for Schneider’s journey. Trying to resume a normal life, Dan returns to work at the pharmacy and makes an alarming discovery. But often areas depicted in such shows can feel relentlessly depressing and deprived.

She pleaded guilty in 2009 to illegally dispensing controlled substances, but faced no prison time. Cleggett appears in The Pharmacist’s final part and defends herself against accusations of wrongdoing. After his son’s tragic death, a Louisiana pharmacist goes to extremes to expose the rampant corruption behind the opioid addiction crisis. Executives from Insys, the maker of Subsys, became the first pharmaceutical bosses to be handed prison time for their role in America’s opioid epidemic. I think that one of the problems that enters into this equation that’s even bigger than the opioid crisis is the problem of economic incentives in medicine. And nowhere is that more evident than in the opioid crisis — where the incentive, whether you internalize it, whether you recognize it consciously or not, is to prescribe more and more and more because you’re making more money.

A Netflix original, “Recovery Boys” is a 90-minute documentary that chronicles the journey to recovery for four men. After battling opioid addiction, they spend 18 months at a recovery center that is farm-based and located in Aurora, West Virginia. And fentanyl is — as you pointed out earlier, is an extremely potent drug, 50 times more powerful than heroin. And one character in our film goes through that process, a guy named Caleb Lanier from Texas. And he ended up becoming a fentanyl dealer, because he could pay for his own habit by selling it. But fentanyl is an extraordinarily dangerous drug, because it’s very difficult to monitor the dosage.

Her husband became terribly concerned and she died of an overdose not too long after. Many well-known companies in health care have been involved in manufacturing and distribution of opioids, including Johnson & Johnson, Mallinckrodt, Endo International, Allergan, Teva, McKesson, Walgreens, Cardinal Health, AmerisourceBergen, CVS and Walmart. Over the 40-minute span of the documentary, the overdoses pile up — in the bathroom of a local pizza joint, Gino’s; up against a counter in Sheetz; behind a locked door in a home. As Rader and her fire department run from one scene to the next, you’re struck by the route mundanity, the well-oiled practice of their movements.


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