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A new Netflix TV show about the origins and consequences of the opioid epidemic is coming to the small screen. The show, “Painkiller,” is a fictional story based on real events that transpired around the Sackler family, Purdue Pharma, and the marketing and distribution of their drug, OxyContin. It adds to the growing list of television shows and movies around America’s opioid crisis, including Netflix’s own “The Pharmacist,” Hulu’s “Dopesick,” and HBO’s “The Crime of the Century.”

The opioid crisis has plagued the U.S. for over two decades, starting with prescription opioids in the late 1990s, then heroin and fentanyl in the early 2010s. Nearly 600,000 Americans died from opioid overdose between 1999 to 2021, with over 200,000 of them from prescription opioids like oxycodone and hydrocodone. In 2017, one of the highest years of prescription opioid-related deaths on record, the economic burden of the opioid epidemic — including health care expenses and lost productivity — was estimated to be over $1 trillion.


Court filings show that Purdue, owned by the Sackler family, earned more than $35 billion from the sales of OxyContin, which was approved by the FDA in 1995.

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