Netflix’s ‘Painkiller’ Is ‘Succession’ for The Sacklers

in Culture

As someone who was born in the Netherlands and moved to the United States as a teenager, I am often asked what I feel is the biggest difference between America and Europe. To their surprise, it’s not the fact that people on this side of the Atlantic can own semi-automatics, unironically order breakfast at McDonald’s, or have to be 21 to legally drink beer. 

It’s that, whenever you turn on the television, there’s a good chance you’ll run into a commercial for some kind of prescription medication. Antidepressants, immunosuppressants, antipyretics, analgesics, antiseptics, even those DIY colon cancer screeners are advertised alongside cars and Coca-Cola cans. They also all follow the same formula: a Lynchian mix of sappy music, sappier scenes of picnicking families and honeymooning lovers, and long, hastily-read lists of severe and possibly life-threatening side effects. Watching them makes you feel a little ill, and that’s probably the point.

No one, we are told in an episode of Netflix’s Painkiller, was better at marketing drugs than the Sacklers, the family at the head of the disgraced but for some unfathomable reason still operational pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma. Between 1990 and 2020, this family earned an estimated $10 billion in profits pushing OxyContin. During the same time, OxyContin, an extremely addictive painkiller, killed upwards of 564,000 people. 

Painkiller, whose 6 episodes premiered on August 10, explores the link between these two statistics and the unresolved legal battle they sparked. Matthew Broderick stars as Richard Sackler, nephew of the diseased patriarch Arthur Sackler who rebranded OxyContin – initially synthesized by German researchers in 1916 – from an end-of-life painkiller into a wonder cure for ailments both major and minor. Uzo Aduba is Edie Flowers, a fictionalized version of several real-life attorneys that went after derelict doctors, negligent FDA employees, and, finally, the Sacklers themselves. …

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Author: Tim Brinkhof / High Times

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