While certain characters and storylines have been dramatized for the sake of television, there is one central character that is based on a very real person.
Matthew Broderick stars as Richard Sackler, the president of Purdue Pharma who helped spearhead OxyContin’s success.
But how exactly did Sackler become involved in the opioid crisis and where is he now? Read on for everything you need to know.
Who is Richard Sackler?
While many of the characters in Painkiller are fictional or composite characters – such as Edie Flowers – Richard Sackler is a real person.
The American businessman and physician is the chairman and president of Purdue Pharma, which is owned primarily by members of the Sackler family as descendants of Mortimer and Raymond Sackler.
Richard, one of Raymond’s sons, trained as a physician and initially joined Purdue in 1971 as an assistant to his father and worked his way up the corporate ladder. Purdue’s leading drug at the time, MS Contin, faced competition so the decision was made to continue research into the production of OxyContin.
After getting the FDA to approve OxyContin in 1995, the company’s marketing push for the new drug branded it safer to use than other painkillers.
In Painkiller, we follow Richard through the creation of OxyContin, looking back at his past and ultimately, in the future as he faces a barrage of lawsuits.
Speaking of the decision to cast Matthew Broderick in the role, director Painkiller and executive producer Pete Berg said: “Our portrayal of Richard Sackler certainly doesn’t think that he’s the bad guy in his life story, and one of the really interesting things about Matthew is that he’s just a really nice, kind person, which he brings in to play a morally questionable character. He finds another dimension to what a one-note character can be.
Where is Richard Sackler now?
As for where Sackler is now, the series concludes with some recent details about the real-life events on which the series is based. A series of news reports emerged stating that “Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy in 2019 as a direct result of multi-state lawsuits”.
It stated that Sacklers had agreed to pay a settlement of $6 billion and had to forfeit ownership of Purdue Pharma. No member of the Sackler family has ever been criminally charged in connection with the marketing of OxyContin or the overdose deaths related to it, and Richard has previously denied that he and his family were responsible for the opioid crisis.
Painkillers eventually stated that “it is estimated that more than 300,000 people have died over the past 20 years from overdoses involving prescription painkillers such as OxyContin and more than 40 people die in the US from prescription opioid overdoses every day”.
It also stated that as of March 2023, the final approval for bankruptcy of Purdue Pharma is still pending.
Over the past few years, Purdue Pharma has been involved in multi-state lawsuits, which resulted in Richard Sackler selling a number of his properties. In 2018, Sackler sold his home on Cicero Lane in Austin, Texas for over $3 million.
As reported in 2022, Sackler also sold his eight-bedroom, 10-bathroom Boca Raton, Florida estate for $4.88 million, according to The New York Post.
The Sackler family has not admitted any wrongdoing during the litany of lawsuits against Purdue Pharma but have agreed to pay a $6 billion settlement. As of March 2023, Richard Sackler is set to sell his third property for around $20 million.
Painkiller is available to stream on Netflix now. Check out more of our Drama coverage or visit our TV guide and Streaming Guide to see tonight’s show.
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