Dopesick – Season 1 Episode 2 “Breakthrough Pain” Recap & Review

Breakthrough Pain

Episode 2 of Dopesick begins in 1996 with Richard Sackler sitting down to breakfast in his lavish house. With the first sets of numbers due to roll in, Richard is focused and convinced that they’ll be fine. However, should this drug fail it could cause catastrophic consequences for the family.

While this is going on, Purdue extend their reach and bring Cutler out to see Finnix, encouraging him to show up to a seminar about OxyContin. He promises it’ll be fun but Finnix is busy with his patients. The big problem here is that OxyContin doesn’t last 12 hours like it was promised to.

The FDA only requite a 50% threshold though, hence why the drug has been cleared, and it’s enough to Sackler to wave any concerns around. He continues to push the drug to market, blinded by his ambitions. He believes this drug could be bigger than penicillin and fails to see the problems and dangers.

In order to combat the 12 hour issue, Purdue comes up with a buzzword – Breakthrough pain. Basically, if these patients experience pain before the 12 hours are up, they just need to double the dose to stifle their concerns. Cutler isn’t sure this is a good idea but continues to pedal this drug nonetheless, working with Purdue and convincing Finnix to double the dose.

Fast forward to 2003, Rick and John question those responsible for the promotional shoot. It turns out they were only instructed to bring in actors to talk about general pain medication. The text about OxyContin and the doses were actually added in during post-production. Apparently they have no names for the executives responsible for allowing this either. Typical!

With two weeks until a big meeting with the justice department, Randy and Rick begin to track down those on camera, and learn that they were told to specifically refrain from saying OxyContin on camera. It turns out these guys were actually referred by their doctor, Alan Spanos. He’s convinced that treating this pain is a good thing and that opioids have a bad rep.

One of the more harrowing cases comes from one of the women in the video, Regina Carter. At one point she was taking 160mg of Oxy at work, and subsequently lost everything. She managed to wean herself off the drug, but it’s undoubtedly another damning assessment of how destructive Oxy actually is.

Meanwhile in Harlan County, Bridget Meyer tries to get an appointment to see the doctor but gets nowhere.. In fact, the receptionist just nonchalantly seems to be allowing repeat prescriptions. On the way out the front door though, she notices Lucas and gets talking to him about OxyContin. Apparently half the kids are around the drug and they’ve been sniffing around the prescriptions ever since.

With her divorce finalized, Bridget drowns her sorrows in the bar. Lucas’ words continue to swim in her memories as Randy and Rick show up and fill her in on what they’ve uncovered. Specifically, they discuss the fraudulent promotional video. For now, Bridget takes a backseat to this investigation while the boys work.

Now, a lot of the trouble here comes from the very-legal corporate loopholes one can jump through. For instance, government officials switching across to working for the very companies they’ve been regulating to bypass those regulations. There’s nothing against anyone doing this and Purdue Pharma happens to have a bad rep for it.

Drug companies are supposed to be honest but criminal misbranding could be good grounds to incriminate Purdue on this subject. The trouble is, Maine justice are not happy with the group sniffing around and phone Brownlee, telling him their case is being shut down.

Back in 1996, Betsy breaks the news to her mum about being a lesbian. Only, she completely ignores her daughter and continues kitting, claiming she hasn’t heard. It’s all a ploy of course, given their religious upbringing, but enough to alienate Betsy further from her family. It’s also the tipping point for her decision to leave town.

The big seminar at Purdue goes ahead and with big names in the industry up on the podium talking about the drug, Finnix happens to be in attendance too.

All these different professionals claim to be experts, talking about the differences in drug and coercing these doctors to speak up for Purdue. One of those happens to be Finnix himself, who’s encouraged to talk about his experiences and win over the crowd. Billy Cutler gets the ball rolling by talking passionately about his father’s cancer, but we soon learn that was all one big lie. It was simply a way of coercing Finnix into speaking up about his own issues.

While al this is going on, a new line of OxyContin is launched – the 80mg pill.

The Episode Review

Those different storylines we saw in the last episode that seemed to jump all over the place now make a lot more sense as we see the extent of OxyContin and Purdue Pharma’s influence across the US. It works surprisingly well too, showing the juxtaposition between Purdue’s swanky offices and the devastating decisions of upping the dosage of drugs with little regard for these patients. Simultaneously, it also shows how those individuals slowly become more addicted.

The lawyers firmly in the middle of all this are obvious the anchor that holds everything together, while Dr Finnix serves as the good-natured doctor who finds himself wrapped in a devastating spiral of deceit as he unwittingly trusts Purdue.

This second episode is as good, if not better than the first at showcasing this. With another episode to come, Dopesick looks like it could well be a winner this Fall!

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