Painkiller on Netflix: Where is Richard Sackler now? (2024)

If you're struggling with what to watch next on Netflix, strap yourself in for the brand-new limited drama series: Painkiller. The show dropped on the streaming platform on 10 August, and features six 45-minute to hour-long episodes on "the causes and consequences of America's opioid epidemic, following its perpetrators, victims and an investigator seeking the truth."

One major figure portrayed in the mini-series is Richard Sackler, who is played by Golden Globe-nominee, Matthew Broderick. For those unaware of the Sackler name, Richard was the chairman and president of Purdue Pharma, the company best known for developing the painkiller, OxyContin. (Otherwise known as the drug at the centre of the country's epidemic.) Thanks to his involvement in the development of OxyContin, Sackler has been the subject of multiple lawsuits and fines.

But, who exactly is Richard Sackler and where is he now?

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Who is Richard Sackler?

Richard Sackler is an American billionaire businessman. He joined the Sackler family business, Purdue Pharma (a private pharmaceutical company) in 1971 after completing his bachelor's degree at Columbia College and his MD degree from the New York University School of Medicine.

At the time, he worked alongside his father, Raymond, who was the company's president and held roles such as head of research and development and head of marketing. In 1990, when Purdue Pharma was pushing for OxyContin to replace the painkiller, MS Contin, he oversaw the department that developed the drug and pushed the false narrative that opioids were not highly addictive.

After he gained FDA approval in 1995, Sackler managed to convince officials to claim the drug was less addictive than other painkillers on the market. Despite there being no studies conducted during the approval process on how addictive OxyContin was or how likely it was to be abused. Plus, the fact that opiates have been known for their highly addictive properties for decades.

In 1999, he became the company president.

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How was Richard Sackler involved in the opioid crisis?

Over the last two decades, the US has been dealing with an opioid crisis, whereby over one million people have died due to opioid-involved overdoses. The Sackler family - and particularly Richard - have been subjected to huge blame for the epidemic, and have been hit with a slew of lawsuits in recent years.

In 2001, Sackler urged his employees to circulate the story that OxyContin addiction was not caused by his company, but instead by the "criminal" addicts. He also encouraged pharmaceutical representatives to convince doctors to prescribe the highest doses possible in a bid to boost profits.

Following this, he then approved targeted marketing advertisem*nts which promoted the sale of OxyContin to a string of medical professionals, including doctors, pharmacists, nurses, and academics.

Upon receiving lawsuits claiming Purdue Pharma were responsible for the opioid epidemic, The New York Times said in 2019: "[The family] knew that putting patients on high dosages of OxyContin for long periods increased the risks of serious side effects, including addiction, nonetheless, they promoted higher dosages because stronger pain pills brought the company and the Sacklers the most profit."

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Where is Richard Sackler now?

In 2019, Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy due to the string of legal claims against them. Then, in 2022, the company and its owners, the Sackler family, were ordered to pay $6 billion to a number of states to settle a lawsuit. It was revealed that the family, who at the time was worth $13 billion, would have to pay at least $5.5 billion in cash, which would be used to fund opioid addiction treatment centres.

However, earlier this year (and despite the mammoth suits against him and his family) Richard Sackler strongly denied that he, his family, and his pharmaceutical company bore any responsibility for the devastating epidemic.

As of 2023, he has parted ways with $30 million worth of property, from homes in Austin, Texas, all the way to Florida and Beverly Hills. All due to the lawsuits and scandal he and his family were embroiled in.

Along with his now ex-wife, Beth, who he shares three children with, Rebecca, Marianna, and David, Sackler has a charitable foundation, called the 'Sackler Trust' that - according to the website - has been "supporting research and education charities across the UK since 2010."

Watch the 8-hour deposition of Richard Sackler as he denies family's role in the opioid crisis here

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    Sophie Williams

    Freelance Journalist and Copywriter

    Sophie Williams is a Freelance Journalist and Copywriter, covering everything from Fashion to Entertainment to music, Lifestyle and Features. She has interviewed a range of musical artists and authors including Alyssa Edwards, Courtney Barnett, Confidence Man, The Vaccines, Loyle Carner, Gabrielle, and John Niven, and has written for publications like Metro, Reader's Digest, ITV's Woo! and Vice’s NBGA. She is also working on a book for HarperCollins about Taylor Swift, due to be published in 2024.

    Painkiller on Netflix: Where is Richard Sackler now? (2024)
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