Episode 1 of Dopesick begins in 1986 during an epidemic of suffering. This happens to be the first time OxyContin is brought up, with sales reps pedaling the claim that less than 1% become addicted. According to these doctors it’s a miracle drug. As the scenes skip forward to a court case in 2005, Dr Samuel Finnix is under the spotlight for his role in being on the frontlines of the devastation to follow.
Before we find out much from the court case, the catalyst for this begins back in 1996 where we find Finnix working in a clinic, serving the local community. There’s a fair few different characters in town, including a whole group of coal miners. One of them is Betsy Mallun, who hurts her back badly when she slips and lands hard on a metal instrument.
Meanwhile, Dr Richard Sackler comes under fire from his family for the cost of these drugs about to hit the market. Raymond sticks up for him but the rest of the family, sat around eating in this expensive gallery, have their doubts. Richard though promises that this drug will work.
Now, the purpose of seeing all these individuals in this small town comes from a brief flash forward to 2005. With Dr Finnix being questioned, he blames OxyContin as the sole reason for a high number of deaths in his town.
This case has been 3 years in the making, with Rick Mountcastle and Randy Ramseyer given the greenlight to investigate by John Brownlee. All three of them work together to build a case against Purdue Pharma, the creators of this drug. The trouble is, no US attorney is going near this with a bargepole. So that naturally means they need to gather as much evidence as possible.
Some of that evidence comes from sniffing around Bridget Meyer, the deputy director of the diversity division. According to Rick, she has first-hand experience of what’s happened. So naturally they show up at her office… but she refuses to engage. That is, until Randy mentions a harrowing story about a guy selling pills out the back of his car to an 11 year old girl.
Now, later in the episode we actually jump back and see Bridget working in the DEA and how OxyContin is being sold alongside cocaine. Since its arrival on the market, things are starting to get sticky out on the streets. Jails are filling up, prostitution among minors is increasing while addictions are at an alarming high (no pun intended).
Further complicating matters is a promotional video for Oxycontin itself. All the figureheads chosen to speak don’t mention the drug by name, simply stating it as “pain medication” that works.
Richard continues to push OxyContin though, demanding that the sales force begin promoting this drug and flip doctors from Vicodin and other pain medication across to OxyContin instead.
With the largest sales force assembled, among those is Billy Cutler and Amber who joins the workforce as they’re briefed to win over as many doctors as possible. And of course, one of those doctors happens to be Dr Finnix.
Talking over a bucket of KFC, Cutler does well to win the man over. However, it’s Betsy that seals the deal for him, as Finnix sees the nasty bruises across her back and implores her to take time off from work. When she refuses, he decides to prescribe her a dosage of OxyContin.
The Episode Review
The first episode of Dopesick gets things off to a great start, despite jumping all over the place between various different individuals and timeframes. While that would ordinary cause a bit of whiplash, it actually works surprisingly well here to show the timeline of events and how deeply this drug affects the local community.
Dr Finnix looks to be the focal point in all this, inadvertently turning this quaint small town into – I’d imagine anyway – an absolute cesspit of addicts.
Seeing the true extent of this drug’s devastation, and how Big Pharma have essentially solidified themselves as this impregnable force in the US is difficult to watch – especially when you consider the malicious and calculating ways these individuals targeted rural areas first to roll the drug out.
Whether Richard was actually aware of his drug being so addictive, serving as a snake oil salesman, is up for debate but this first chapter does well to show the extent of devastation his actions have caused across the community. With three episodes this week and lots more drama to come, it remains to be seen what’s on the agenda next for our characters.