'PainKiller' on Netflix Offers Little New Information on Purdue Pharma/OxyContin Story

"PainKIller" on Netflix

Less than two years ago, Dopesick's eight episodes began streaming on Hulu. The series focuses on Purdue Pharma, OxyContin and the opioid crisis in America. It received 14 Emmy nominations and Michael Keaton won the 2022 Best Actor Emmy for his portrayal of the befuddled Dr. Sam Finnix.

Fast forward to August 2023 and the same story has been repackaged by Netflix into a six-part series called PainKiller. Since its on Netflix, more people will watch it. Some don't even know Dopesick preceded it.

This version of the Purdue Pharma saga follows a similar storyline. The Sackler family ovesees the drug-making operation and steers away from benzos to opioids just as Americans are looking for new ways to address pain. OxyContin is their solution. As Richard Sackler (Matthew Broderick), nephew of the company's founder Arthur (Clark Gregg), says in Ep. 1: "I understand pain. Run from pain towards pleasure."

"There's nothing new here with 'PainKiller,' just a revisualization starring other actors and a slightly different vision about the same sad subject."

The Connecticut company starts cranking out OxyContin, a new formula that's supposed to be nonaddictive (they like to say the addiction rate is about 1%). On one side is the younger Sackler, a vacant billionaire who lives in a huge mansion with his dog and servants. He's lost in his own world, like Citizen Kane.

On the other side is the government in pursuit of Purdue, led by forceful investigator Edie Flowers (Uzo Aduba), whose brother Shawn (Jamaal Grant) is in jail on a drug charge.

The third key character is Glen Kruyger (Taylor Kitsch), a Virginia car repair shop owner who suffers a back injury on the job and picks up a substantial Oxy habit. The writers and director Peter Berg lay it on thick when it comes to Glen's cravings and how this impacts his wife Lily (Caroline Bartcsak) and son Tyler (Jack Mulhern), who's also a user.

Whereas the sales rep in Dopesick is a man, PainKIller employs two pretty blonde women - Britt Hufford (Dina Shihabi) and Shannon Schaeffer (West Duchovny) – to sway doctors to prescribe Oxy at higher and higher doses. That's pretty much the Dopesick storyline.

Purdue Pharma would ultimately settle with the U.S. and agree to a bankruptcy. But this has not stemmed the flow of the powerful drug that has since been usurped by the even more potent Fentanyl. When should we expect miniseries about the latter's makers?

So, there's nothing new here with PainKiller, just a revisualization starring other actors and a slightly different vision about the same sad subject. 


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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.