Netflix today announced Painkiller, a new scripted drama and limited series about the origins of the opioid crisis. Sports Emmy Award winner Peter Berg (The Leftovers, Friday Night Lights) will direct all eight episodes of the limited series.
Eric Newman (Children of Men) will serve as executive producer as part of his overall deal with Netflix, where he is showrunner on Narcos and Narcos: Mexico.
Academy Award and Emmy Award winner Alex Gibney (Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, Enron: The Smartest Guys In the Room) will serve as executive producer.
Patrick Radden Keefe (Dirty Money), who wrote New Yorker’s The Family That Built An Empire of Pain and Barry Meier, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist and author of the groundbreaking book Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America’s Opioid Epidemic will both consult on Painkiller. Their respective master works serve as underlying material for the series.
Eric Newman said: “A tragedy decades in the making, the opioid crisis has become one of the most devastating public health crises of our time. Unlike other drug epidemics, born from underground manufacturing and covert smuggling, this epidemic began by prescription – dispensed by doctors, approved by government regulators, and promoted by a family-owned pharmaceutical giant that made billions while betraying the trust of patients and the public.
“I’m grateful to Micah & Noah, and Alex for bringing this story to me. Noah and Micah’s narrative of how it happened, based on the spectacular reporting of Patrick Radden Keefe and Barry Meier, is heartbreaking and terrifying. I’m honored to be working with the great Alex Gibney and I’m thrilled that Peter Berg is coming on to direct it.”
Peter Berg added: “I am really charged to be a part of such an in depth exploration of the genesis of the opioid travesty. Companies that profit off of death and addiction are fair game to me when it comes to illuminating the realities of how they go about their business.”
Cindy Holland, Vice President, Content, Netflix said: “Eric Newman has masterfully chronicled the drug trade for years and now I’m excited to see him join forces with the incredible Alex Gibney, Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster to take a more expansive view of the opioid epidemic.
“Combined with the directing of Peter Berg, Painkiller promises to be a powerful look behind the headlines of a tragedy happening in real time.”
The Pain Killer novel is officially described as follows:
Between 1999 and 2017, an estimated 250,000 Americans died from overdoses involving prescription painkillers, a plague ignited by Purdue Pharma’s aggressive marketing of OxyContin. Families, working class and wealthy, have been torn apart, businesses destroyed, and public officials pushed to the brink.
In Pain Killer, Pulitzer Prize–winning New York Times reporter Barry Meier exposes the roots of the most pressing health epidemic of the twenty-first century. Powerful narcotic painkillers, or opioids, were once used as drugs of last resort for pain sufferers. Purdue turned OxyContin into a billion-dollar blockbuster by launching an unprecedented marketing campaign claiming that the drug’s long-acting formulation made it safer to use than traditional painkillers for many types of pain. That illusion was quickly shattered as drug abusers learned that crushing an Oxy could release its narcotic payload all at once. Even in its prescribed form, Oxy proved fiercely addictive. As OxyContin’s use and abuse grew, Purdue concealed what it knew from regulators, doctors, and patients.
Here are the people who profited from the crisis and those who paid the price, those who plotted in boardrooms and those who tried to sound alarm bells. A country doctor in rural Virginia, Art Van Zee, took on Purdue and warned officials about OxyContin abuse. An ebullient high school cheerleader, Lindsey Myers, was reduced to stealing from her parents to feed her escalating Oxy habit. A hard-charging DEA official, Laura Nagel, tried to hold Purdue executives to account. The drugmaker’s owners, Raymond and Mortimer Sackler, whose names adorn museums worldwide, made enormous fortunes from the commercial success of OxyContin.