Dopesick Season 1 Episode 1: An Inside Look Of The Beginning Of The Opioid Crisis

The new limited Hulu series takes us back to 1986, when Oxycontin is a new drug and it’s believed to be a miracle drug that transforms lives by providing revolutionary pain relief. At least that’s the way Big Pharma packaged and advertised the medication to local physicians. Dopesick has many moving parts so if you don’t watch closely you’ll end up missing some important parts. But what really draws us in this series is that the show takes place in a small Appalachian town, where most of the residents are laborious workers or coal miners which is the perfect place to experiment with a drug like Oxycontin. Finnix is a trusted physician in the small town that’s overwhelmed with the myriad of local miners that need him to treat their severe injuries and pain issues. Finnix is a caring doctor that’s totally invested in his patients emotional and physical well-being. Perhaps that’s why he gets wrapped in the lies of a Purdue Pharma rep who convinces him to treat his patients with Oxycontin. The rep promises him that this drug is significantly more effective than morphine or traditional opioid options while having a 1% addiction rate. However, before Dr.Finnix started prescribing Oxy to his patients he used it to treat his wife’s pain while she was in the final stages of cancer and it provided her much comfort during the last days of her. After seeing how effective Oxycontin has been at managing his patients pain, Dr.Finnix becomes comfortable with prescribing to several of his patients including minors.

Pharma Is A Big Business

If it’s one thing we’ve learned from this series is that pharmaceutical companies aren’t motivated by actually helping curing people they are motivated by money. They’re willing to do just about anything to bring in the bucks. In order to get the FDA’s approval for Oxycontin the company just show that’s it’s effective in real life patients. They are able to convince a number of local physicians to prescribe the experimental drugs to their patients by using one of the most reputable doctors in pain management in their marketing video. In the video the doctors attests to how much the drug has benefited his patients. This is manipulation at its finest! The company of the sales force will do anything to increase their profit margins. The company even hosts a competition to see how much of the drug they can sell and promises an all expense paid trip to Bermuda.

Besty Mallun

We meet Betsy Mallun early on in the first episode. She is a closeted lesbian and coal miner that has dreams of leaving her small town so that she can be free to be truly be herself. That all changes when she hurts her back and Dr. Finnix prescribes her Oxycontin to manage her pain. Although she isn’t strung out and addicted in the first episode we’re going to eventually see how this drug diminishes her life. Unfortunately, her precious relationship and dreams will become casualties to her drug dependence. In the beginning, Oxycotin is effective at treating Betsy’s pain. However, she eventually starts waking up during the night  in pain.

Purdue Pharma Investigation

As previously mentioned, the show has several moving parts and often jumps between 1996 and 2005 when Big Pharma is under investigation for criminally withholding information about the drug. Dr. Finnix is one of the physicians being interviewed in the investigation and he admits that Oxycontin was the cause of the hundreds of deaths in his town. Finnix reveals that so many of his patients have died from the drug that he eventually lost count. Finnix is one of the main physicians to participate in this investigation and eventually testify in court because he was one of the doctors helped the company secure FDA approval. He strongly advocated for the drug in the beginning but he wasn’t made aware of its side effects and potency. At one point, in the show Finnix informs the Pharma rep that the drug hasn’t been lasting 12 hours as advertised for one of his patients and the rep tells him to increase the dosage.  Dr. Finnix immediately says no and doesn’t believe that it will be safe but the rep assures him that it is and so Finnix takes his advice.

FDA Approves Oxycotin

Perhaps the most shocking revelation in Dopesick is that the FDA goes on to approve  Oxycontin and doesn’t reveal the true potency of the drug. The FDA associate that signed off on the deceptive labeling even goes on to work for the creator of the drug which shows that there was always a conflict of interest.


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