Yes, but only loosely. The heavily dramatized Netflix movie was inspired by the Insys Therapeutics scandal, which revolved around the company's pain relief spray for cancer that included fentanyl as its highly addictive core ingredient. The movie was inspired by Evan Hughes' 2018 New York Times Magazine Article "The Pain Hustlers", which he later expanded into the book The Hard Sell: Crime and Punishment at an Opioid Start-Up. However, the core plot of the movie is fiction and does not appear in Hughe's article. In addition, director David Yates, best known for directing several of the Harry Potter films, gave the film a comedic tone that Hughe's article doesn't have. "This isn't the Insys story in detail at all," Yates told TIME magazine.
A Pain Hustlers fact check reveals that the real-life medication created by Insys Therapeutics that inspired the movie was called Subsys. It was a sublingual liquid form of fentanyl, meaning that you applied it by spraying it under the tongue. The movie changes the name of the drug to Lonafin. However, minus the name change, they are essentially the same. The drug company's name is also changed. Insys Therapeutics becomes the fictional Zanna Therapeutics in the film.
Yes. It's true that sales reps earned exorbitant amounts of money, making it easier to ignore the moral conundrum they were in. While conducting our Pain Hustlers fact vs. fiction analysis, we learned that according to Statnews (and court records), one Insys sales rep in Alabama had a base salary of $40,000 but received over $700,000 in commissions from 2013 to 2015.
No, at least not specifically. The Insys movie makes it seem like the bulk of the story unfolded in Florida. However, the Insys scandal happened across the country, with salespeople working throughout the U.S. Insys Therapeutics, the real-life company, was actually based in Chandler, Arizona.
No. Liza Drake (Emily Blunt) having a daughter with a brain tumor and epilepsy in the Netflix movie is the creation of the filmmakers and acts as a bridge between the character and the patients she's trying to sell her employer's drug to.
Netflix's Pain Hustlers joins two other recently-produced stories about the opioid crisis, the 2021 Hulu series Dopesick starring Michael Keaton and the 2023 Netflix series Painkiller starring Matthew Broderick. Director David Yates told TIME that he wanted to give his film an edge that he felt was missing from those two earlier stories. "We always felt we wanted it to be as subversive and as naughty and as different as we could compared to those," he said. The result is a story more reminiscent of The Wolf of Wall Street. We're taken along on the wild ride that the employees experience, only to be finally confronted with the true cost of it all. In this case, customers' lives.