‘Crime of the Century’ Review: Big Pharma Caused Opioid Epidemic

There is an ethical decay at the heart of opioid addiction in the United States, and Gibney is making it clear who is responsible for the human cost.

Over 500,000 Americans have died of an opioid overdose since 2000. This tragedy is often referred to as a crisis, a term Alex Gibney rejects at the start of “The Crime of the Century,” his latest HBO documentary. A crisis is usually something that arises unexpectedly and cannot be prepared for – and there is nothing random about the opioid surge in the United States over the past two decades. It was a deliberate tactic devised by the drug companies to increase their profit margins, and the situation got out of hand when doctors and politicians who might have backed down chose to help and encourage Big Pharma.

Time and time again, “Crime of the Century” shows how anything but accidental the opioid epidemic in the United States was. The four-hour documentary, which is split into two parts and will air over two nights, uses its runtime extensively to clarify how drug companies such as Purdue Pharma and Insys Therapeutics have campaigned to make opiates widely available. It offers multiple in-depth dives on the impact of the opioid epidemic on American citizens – people who have lost loved ones to opioid addiction are interviewed, as are law enforcement and ambulance workers who responded to overdose cases. The result is a damning portrait of some of the pharmaceutical industry‘s most sociopathic leaders and the political forces that made them possible, as well as a heartfelt plea for help from the comparatively “ordinary” American who has lost friends and loved ones because of the country’s opioid. epidemic.

“The Crime of the Century” contains no revealing information. At present, it is common knowledge that drug companies have knowingly lied to the public by promoting opioids as a “safe, non-addictive” solution to pain relief and there is also a consensus that many American politicians are bought and owned by the same companies that they are supposed to regulate.

What the documentary lacks for new information on the opioid epidemic it more than makes up for in its attention to detail. If you or someone you love have struggled with drug addiction before, there are many facts and trivia from “The Crime of the Century” that will be painfully familiar to you, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t presented well: first half of the documentary focuses on the history of opioids and how American companies, especially Purdue, run by the Sackler family, have managed to become America’s best-known peddlers of addictive pharmaceuticals. . ‘Crime of the Century’ shows how companies like Purdue have become the largest suppliers of opioids in the United States, and no expense is spared to deconstruct the unscrupulous advertising tactics these companies use to market their products, as well as how the widespread availability of opioids has impacted various families and communities.

Gibney’s documentary is a fiery indictment of the pharmaceutical companies and the documentary also criticizes key industry catalysts, including American politicians. As the documentary notes, Rudy Giuliani was a spokesperson for Purdue’s lethal opioid marketing long before he became a deplorable #MAGA, while the connections of Jamie Gorelick, the U.S. Deputy Attorney General under the administration of Bill Clinton, who became a lawyer for an opioid distributor Cardinal Health, are examined in exasperating detail.

There is already a public consensus that being bought and owned by large corporations is an age-old bipartisan tradition. – hello, climate change denying politicians who happened to be funded by fossil fuel companies, and hello to everything the NRA does – but “The Crime of the Century” shows how insidious political lobbying can be : American representatives such as Rep. Tom Marino (R-PA) and Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) present the pharmaceutical companies ‘talking points as their contributions to the companies’ campaign are displayed on screen. It’s both informative and hopelessly infuriating – the documentary doesn’t have the magic answer to how the wrongdoing of the pharmaceutical industry can be stopped when those charged with regulating it are so clearly paid, but damn, you can’t tell Gibney. does not exactly describe the situation as it is.

Although “The Crime of the Century” focuses on an inexorably dark subject, there are “heroes” to be encouraged in the documentary. While Gibney’s reticle has mainly formed on the major proliferators of the epidemic, appropriate time is devoted to the families of those who have lost loved ones to the scourge of opioid addiction, as well as to the forces law enforcement and medical professionals handling overdose calls and drug traffickers. regularly. Former DEA official Joe Rannazzisi, who was ousted after investigating pharmaceutical industry opioid rings, is one of the driving forces behind the documentary’s second half, while Anecdotes from individuals ranging from EMTs to family members of those who have lost loved ones to opioids. addictions are strewn throughout the documentary. Gibney does an exceptional job criticizing the powerful forces that made possible the opioid epidemic in the country without losing sight of how the epidemic has impacted all facets of American life.

While many viewers will be familiar with the key points of “The Crime of the Century,” the documentary’s exclusive footage will destabilize even those who consider themselves knowledgeable about the opioid epidemic in the country. Gibney acquired a series of shocking footage for the documentary, including several exclusive interviews with former Purdue and Insys employees. Examples of bribes, illegal marketing tactics and abusive corporate excesses Insys’ marketing video featuring a dancing fentanyl bottle is quite beyond pale (and parody) permeates the documentary. There is ethical rot at the heart of America’s opioid epidemic, and Gibney makes it clear who is responsible for the human cost throughout the documentary. The documentary explains in grim detail how the nation’s biggest pharmaceutical companies are essentially white-collar drug cartels, while the politicians who allow their practices and the doctors who recklessly prescribe their products are little more than enforcers and perpetrators. resellers, respectively.

The first half of “The Crime of the Century” is primarily devoted to the history of opioids and how the Sackler and Perdue family laid the groundwork for the opioid crisis in the United States, while the second half of the documentary passes to Insys and the proliferation of fentanyl. There is an undeniable sense of déjà vu in the second half of the documentary, which reiterates how drug companies were freed with a financial slap in the face as their wares continued to hurt the Americans they were meant to help. While some of the key points in the second half of the documentary repeat the same talking points, such as political corruption, corporate greed, and the human cost of opioid addiction, it bears repeating: as noted Gibney, the United States government has only slapped companies like Purdue and Insys with financial fines that pale in comparison to their profits, essentially giving opioid makers nationwide the green light to continue the status quo. that they created.

But then again, isn’t that part of the problem? A weak-willed US government has essentially allowed drug companies to do whatever they want, regardless of the human cost. As the documentary suggests, profit margins are all that matters to business leaders and the politicians they fund. Perhaps the biggest criticism that can be leveled against “The Crime of the Century” is that the documentary does not boast of a call to action or a magic solution to the country’s opioid epidemic in the country. – beyond the presentation of the facts as they are. There is nothing positive about solving the opioid epidemic in the documentary, which ends with a heartbreaking recording of a woman screaming on a hotline about someone she is close to and who dies of an overdose. “Crime of the Century” isn’t a pleasurable viewing experience, but it’s one of the most urgent and deeply-reported features on one of America’s most serious public issues in the world. recent history.

Quality: A-

The first half of “The Crime of the Century” premieres on HBO on May 10 at 9 pm ET; the second part airs on May 11.

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