Story at a glance

  • ”Crime of the Century” is a two-part documentary that will air on HBO.
  • The documentary by famed director Alex Gibney scrutinizes the role Big Pharma played in the opioid crisis.
  • Part one will air on May 10.

HBO released the trailer for "Crime of the Century" on Tuesday, a two-part documentary examining the role Big Pharma played in the inception of and fueling the opioid crisis.

With a YouTube trailer description that reads, "Big Pharma sold America a lie and made a killing," the film explores the billions of dollars pharmaceutical companies gained, as well as the thousands of people who lost their lives, as a result of the opioid crisis.

In the documentary, Big Pharma is charged with utilizing a substantial supply of money and political influence to skirt and manipulate government regulations that enabled the overproduction and unethical overdistribution of synthetic opioids, resulting in the abuse of opioids that ultimately led to the current opioid epidemic.

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Written and directed by famed director Alex Gibney, whose previous works include "The Inventor" and "Going Clear," and presented in association with The Washington Post, the documentary is to include previously unseen footage of Purdue Pharma's former president Richard Sackler's 2015 deposition in the case Kentucky v. Purdue Pharma and leaked documents from the Department of Justice.

Part one of the documentary will surround Purdue Pharma's promotion of OxyContin, as well as its distributors, while part two will examine the use of fentanyl and Insys Therapeutics.

Amid a multitude of lawsuits and internal disagreements over how to publicly respond, in 2019, the Sackler family released a statement saying, "The reality is that we are united in both our deep desire to help address today's crisis of drug addiction and in our knowledge that we did not cause this complex public health crisis. We all hope to resolve the many lawsuits through a fair global resolution."

Last year, Purdue Pharma reached an more than $8 billion settlement with the Department of Justice, acknowledging the company had "knowingly and intentionally conspired and agreed with others to aid and abet" doctors prescribing and distributing the opioid "without a legitimate medical purpose."

Research states that 21 to 29 percent of patients who are prescribed opioids for chronic pain misuse the drugs, while 8 to 12 percent of patients who use opioids for chronic pain develop an opioid addiction.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, nearly 50,000 people died from opioid-involved overdoses in the United States in 2019. 

Part one of "Crime of the Century" premieres on May 10, and part two will air the following day.

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Published on Apr 21, 2021