Netflix's "Pain Hustlers": Based on a Horrifying True Story

Netflix's pharmaceutical dramas continue with Pain Hustlers after Painkiller and The Fall of the House of Usher. The dark comedy starring Chris Evans and Emily Blunt premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival last month. A little company encourages uninformed patients to use fentanyl. A true story in the film will raise doubts.

The video was inspired by Evan Hughes' 2018 New York Times Magazine investigation of billionaire John Kapoor's Insys. Kapoor advocated Subsys, a powerful opioid used to treat “breakthrough” cancer pain. 

It was based on a generic medicine, but Insys added a spray administration mechanism to make it seem expensive. In the movie, Lonafin is an opioid medication marketed by Zanna.


Kapoor succeeded with a “speaker program.” He convinced doctors to prescribe unnecessary, addictive drugs to vulnerable people. Kapoor received a 66-month sentence in 2020 for bribing doctors and a “racketeering conspiracy.”


Hughes remarked of the original story: "This was a scrappy startup with a wild rags to riches tale." I would call the tale and film ‘outrageous’ in two ways. The narrative is outrageous in terms of crazy, larger-than-life, chaotic, and humorous, but it's also morally awful because patients were being wounded.

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The essay became Hughes' book The Hard Sell: Crime and Punishment at an Opioid Start-Up. David Yates was drawn to the dramatic subject of drug business corruption and turned it into a fictional story with documentary elements, blurring the borders between fact and fiction.

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Humor, for starters. Because so many genuine people acquired addictions under trusted doctors, the Insys narrative is terrible. Yates intended the film to amuse and educate with a fresh tone.

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It was always our goal to make it subversive, mischievous, and distinct from those, Yates told Time. Primarily we wanted to educate people about the drug crisis.”

Pain Hustlers' universe was shrunk to simplify character development. Florida is where the film is set, but Insys salesmen were nationwide, so it was a much larger business.

Yates centers the film on Liza Drake (Emily Blunt). Liza is a composite character representing numerous article POVs. A single woman struggling to support herself and her children joins a shady business that manipulates people for profit. She starts well, then things spiral out of control.

“It was made up of young people who were often in over their heads and hungry for success, and she embodies that,” he said.

Chris Evans' Pete Brenner resembles Hughes' article's protagonist Alec Burlakoff. Pete meets Liza in a strip club where she's about to lose her job; Hughes' story says Insys recruited a “former exotic dancer.”

Read on for the latest information.