HBO’s THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY, a two-part documentary directed by Emmy® and Academy Award® winner Alex Gibney (HBO’s “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley,” “Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief”), is a searing indictment of Big Pharma and the political operatives and government regulations that enable over-production, reckless distribution and abuse of synthetic opiates. Exploring the origins, extent and fallout of one of the most devastating public health tragedies of our time, with half a million deaths from overdoses this century alone, the film reveals that America’s opioid epidemic is not a public health crisis that came out of nowhere.
With the help of whistleblowers, insiders, newly-leaked documents, exclusive interviews and access to behind-the-scenes investigations, and featuring expert input from medical professionals, journalists, former and current government agents, attorneys and pharmaceutical sales representatives, as well as sobering testimony from victims of opioid addiction, Gibney’s exposé posits that drug companies are in fact largely responsible for manufacturing the very crisis they profit from, to the tune of billions of dollars...and thousands of lives.
THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY will debut on HBO and be available to stream on HBO Max this May.
The opioid crisis has resulted in a country ravaged by corporate greed and betrayed by some of its own elected officials, following the aggressive promotion of OxyContin, a highly addictive drug from family owned pharmaceutical giant, Purdue Pharma. Purdue worked closely with the FDA to get the highly profitable pain medication approved for wider use, promoting its safety without sufficient evidence, and creating a campaign to redefine pain and how we treat it. When government regulators or Justice Department officials tried to mitigate the wrongdoing, Purdue Pharma and companies like Cardinal-Health that were huge opioid distributors would settle the cases, keep the details private and continue on unabated. As tens of thousands of people succumbed to opioid addiction, the fortunes built by the opiate business became the crime of the century, and the market that OxyContin had opened paved the way for even deadlier prescription drugs.
Contributing to Part One of THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY are: author Patrick Radden Keefe; opioid specialist Dr. Andrew Kolodny; former Purdue sales rep. Mark Ross; addiction specialist Dr. Anne Lembke; Life Tree pain clinic founder Dr. Lynn Webster; Roy Bosley, whose wife died of an opioid overdose; author and NY Times reporter Barry Meier; primary care physician Dr. Art Van Zee; former Department of Justice official Paul Pelletier; and EMT Giles Sartin.
Part Two of THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY shines a spotlight on the mass marketing of the synthetic opioid fentanyl and examines the connections between drug manufacturers and government policy. While America’s silent epidemic was killing 40 people a day, Insys Therapeutics, an upstart opioid manufacturer of fentanyl, continued to bribe doctors to overprescribe. Startling video of sales retreats and promotional material speak to a deep cynicism among company employees and a disregard for the widespread, nefarious corporate practices. A complex scheme to defraud the insurance companies existed side by side with fraudulent marketing tactics while lawmakers continued to turn a blind eye to the implications of a complex pipeline that delivers billions of pills around the country.
Interweaving stories of personal tragedy from first responders, survivors and family members of opioid victims with the timeline of corporate greed and malfeasance, Part Two of THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY includes insights from former DEA agent Joe Rannazzisi; former DEA attorney Jonathan Novak; Washington Post reporters Sari Horwitz, Scott Higham, Lenny Bernstein; Assistant U.S. Attorneys for Massachusetts David Lazarus, Nathaniel Yeager and Fred Wyshak; former V.P. of Sales at Insys Alec Burlakoff; former Insys regional sales manager Sunrise Lee; and fentanyl dealer Sidney Caleb Lanier. Woven together, the character-driven stories form a larger narrative of shocking corruption.
HBO Documentary Films’ presents a Jigsaw Production in association with Storied Media Group, THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY written and directed by Alex Gibney; produced by Alex Gibney, Sarah Dowland, and Svetlana Zill; executive produced by Stacey Offman, Richard Perello, Todd Hoffman, and Aaron Fishman; For HBO: senior producer, Tina Nguyen; executive producers, Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller.