Netflix's Painkiller: What happened to the Sacklers? (2024)

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Painkiller spoilers follow.

Picking up the baton from Dopesick, Painkiller, Netflix's dramatised retelling of the opioid crisis, aims to further explore the devastating impact of one family's apparent quest for money and status at the expense of an addiction crisis that destroyed countless lives.

Inspired by a true story, the harrowingly dark Painkiller sets the scene for how the Sackler family fueled the opioid crisis with their aggressive marketing of the drug OxyContin through their company Purdue Pharma.

It argues that for reasons of narcissism and greed, Richard Sackler (played by Matthew Broderick) misled doctors and patients about the addictive nature of OxyContin.

The drug was marketed as the number-one solution for pain management, making Purdue responsible for the dangerous over-prescription of the highly addictive drug, which resulted in patients becoming hooked.

In Painkiller, Glen Kryger (played by Taylor Kitsch) became the leading face of the victims' plight. Viewers watched the hardworking business and family man crumble under the weight of addiction after being prescribed OxyContin following an injury.

Netflix's Painkiller: What happened to the Sacklers? (1)

The Sacklers' deception eventually catches up with them at the end of Painkiller, owing largely to a relentless pursuit by the investigator for the US Attorney's office, Edie Flowers (Orange is the New Black's Uzo Aduba).

The final scenes — televised news reports of Purdue's involvement in the opioid crisis — are interspersed with true-life updates informing the viewer of Purdue's bankruptcy due to the multiple lawsuits the company now faces.

The ending also details the six-billion-dollar settlement the Sacklers have agreed to pay out, as well as the loss of the company.

However, viewers are also informed that the Sacklers' cushy deal to pay out their settlement over a decade — which, according to Broderick's Sackler, they're likely to be able to cover with investment returns and interest.

Netflix's Painkiller: What happened to the Sacklers? (2)

This, plus the knowledge that they have full immunity and have admitted to no wrongdoing, is an extra sting that can't be alleviated by seeing Richard beaten by his conscience, which takes the form of his uncle and mentor Arthur Sackler (Clark Gregg).

If this lacklustre 'victory' for the victims and their families left you dejected and desperate to know more about the Sacklers' comeuppance, you're not alone.

To that end, here's what happened to the Sacklers after the fall of Purdue Pharma.

What happened to the Sacklers?

As the dramatised documentary states: "No member of the Sackler family has ever been criminally charged in connection with the marketing of OxyContin, or any overdose deaths involving the drug."

However, they continue to be embroiled in lawsuit after lawsuit.

In October 2020, Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty to criminal charges brought by the Department of Justice regarding the marketing of OxyContin.

The 2020 settlement includes the $225 million payment to the Department of Justice for the Sacklers' alleged part in the opioid crisis.

According to Forbes, "nearly all 50 US states have filed lawsuits against Purdue and the Sackler family members for their roles in the alleged opioid crisis".

In response to these lawsuits, the Sacklers have proposed a $10-12 billion settlement. This would be an increase of between $4 and $6 billion from the initial amount agreed upon.

Of the settlement money, $3 billion will come from the Sacklers' personal funds and go to the individuals affected by the opioid crisis.

Additionally, the family has been forced to sell their UK-based subsidiary, Mundipharma, the proceeds of which will go towards the settlement.

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Richard Sackler has also been forced to give up several of his properties, most recently his $20 million Beverly Hills mansion (via The Daily Mail).

Despite the hefty finance and property hits, the Sackler dynasty is still worth approximately $11 billion.

This — along with the legal protection the Sackler family members have received, preventing them from all future civil claims relating to OxyContin — makes their punishment feel insufficient. It's even more devastating when comparing the Sacklers' net worth to the increase in overdose-related deaths, amounting to over 100,000 in 2021 — 75 per cent of which are estimated to have involved an opioid drug.

In some small comfort to the victims, The Irish Times reports that Purdue is set to become Knoa, a new company dedicated to developing and distributing overdose reversal and addiction-treatment medicines for no profit.

The families of now-deceased Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, the two founders of Purdue Pharma, released a statement supporting the court's decision. It reads:

"The Sackler families believe the long-awaited implementation of this resolution is critical to providing substantial resources for people and communities in need."

The case continues.

All episodes of Painkiller are available to stream now on Netflix.


Netflix's Painkiller: What happened to the Sacklers? (5)

Janet A Leigh

TV writer, Digital Spy Janet completed her Masters degree in Magazine Journalism in 2013 and has continued to grow professionally within the industry ever since. For six years she honed her analytical reviewing skills at the Good Housekeeping institute eventually becoming Acting Head of Food testing. She also freelanced in the field of film and TV journalism from 2013-2020, when she interviewed A-List stars such as Samuel L Jackson, Colin Firth and Scarlett Johansson. In 2021 she joined Digital Spy as TV writer where she gets to delve into more of what she loves, watching copious amounts of telly all in the name of work. Since taking on the role she has conducted red carpet interviews with the cast of Bridgerton, covered the BAFTAs and been interviewed by BBC Radio and London Live. In her spare time she also moonlights as a published author, the book Gothic Angel.

Netflix's Painkiller: What happened to the Sacklers? (2024)
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