Hammer the Abusers
Episode 6 of Dopesick begins in 2002 with mass production of OxyContin. The drug is everywhere, as numerous men and women line up for their prescriptions. The drug has become an epidemic but before we dive into that in more detail, we cut back to the year 2000.
Jay McCloskey is the US Attorney for the State of Maine and addresses the people, linking the dangers of OxyContin to the rise of crime in the state. With a letter sent to every doctor in the area, it poses a particularly big problem for Richard Sackler when he finds out.
Of course, from his high tower, blanketed by a cloud of denial, he fails to see just how destructive this drug actually is. As he contemplates what to do, Finnix continues to worry about the effectiveness of rehab, especially after some of his fellow addicts have been in and out over 4 times.
Eventually Finnix does open up over what’s happened to him, including the overwhelming guilt he’s felt over prescribing this drug to his patients. He feels a sense of betrayal over his actions and doubts his own abilities as a doctor. Despite 90 days passing, Finnix leaves in a state of anxiety, unsure whether he’ll be able to stay clean.
Now, Betsy too has been doing her best to stay clean during this time, turning to God for guidance and sticking by her family through these tough times. However, as we cut back to Finnix after this brief scene, the camera pans across the room to find drugs on the table. He’s using again and rehab is a complete nonstarter. Recovery is difficult and he’s close to giving up. Thankfully his guardian angel, Leah, shows up and tries to reassure him, encouraging the guy to try out a clinic in Knoxville.
Fast forward to 2002 and Bridget takes her concerns back to the FDA. They incredulously tell her to prove the drug is dangerous. Of course, this is actually their job but do throw a bone, telling the tenacious fighter that if she can prove Oxy is dangerous when used as prescribed, they’ll take it off the market. Unfortunately, the DEA doesn’t actually have any data surrounding overdose cases, prompting a massive operation too get underway to find people taking Oxy as prescribed and still overdosing.
Given she’s the highest ranking woman in the force, Bridget catches the eye of Mayor Rudy Giuliani who tries to encourage her over to his side, working for Purdue Pharma. As he says the words, Bridget’s gaze narrows as she realizes that this situation goes all the way up to the government.
This exhaustive work eventually skips forward 3 years to see Rick and Randy both looking over the sheer wealth of information they have against Purdue. Rick needs a “kill shot”, and that comes from looking back into the doctors while tracking down Jay McCloskey, the attorney we saw briefly at the start of the episode.
Randy speaks to one of the doctors, who’s currently behind bars, and brings up the blood charts. Now, according to him they were pitched the idea of there being “fewer peaks and valleys”. The truth though is a false plateau and worse, the charts have been manipulated. Given the FDA have approved this, it appears they’ve done so by turning a blind eye to the truth.
Off the back of this, the pair relentlessly pursue the blood charts Purdue Pharma have been using to pedal the drug. Given this was used in promotional material for Oxy and religiously by sales reps, the worker from the FDA is shocked when he sees what Rick and Randy have found.
In fact, it turns out they specifically told Purdue they couldn’t use this chart, rejected the “fewer peaks and valleys” statement as misleading, and even had a letter sent out to them urging the reps not to bring any of this up. Realizing they have a case and a star witness at last, this man agrees to testify in front of a grand jury on this case.
Remember Jay McCloskey? Well, it turns out this former US Attorney is now representing Purdue Pharma. That’s why he’s not returning their calls and it continues Purdue’s slimy cycle of paying off anyone who is going up against them.
If this wasn’t shocking enough, we cut back in time to 2000 and learn that the company are implementing a system whereby when certain emails are read, they instantly delete to make sure there’s no records of what they’re doing on the server.
Still in this time-frame, Finnix heads in to the Knoxville clinic where he’s given methadone which is – according to the doctor anyway- the path to recovery. He needs to show up 7 days a week in order to get over this and continue on the path to recovery.
Betsy unfortunately is not so lucky. Despite turning to God, the pull of Oxy is too much and loses her way. Instead of taking Oxy though, she turns toward heroin instead.
In 2002, Bridget’s research comes up with unexpected results. Thee numbers of overdoses are incredibly low, mostly thanks to the way the drugs are working. You see, the FDA appear to be approving Oxy to be used alongside other drugs, which would obscure the final result.
Well, that evening she strikes inspiration and decides to separate out non-lethal combinations of drugs. In doing so, this should give them a more accurate amount of Oxy-related deaths.
The changes are absolutely shocking. Specifically they stumble upon 464 deaths so far. And 98% of those were from patients who actually took the drug as prescribed. The ones dying are actually pain patients and not abusers. Bridget can hardly believe her luck. “I f*cking got you you f*cking f*ckers!” She says, as the episode comes to a close.
The Episode Review
After a long, hard-ought investigation over numerous years, it finally comes down to a burst of inspiration from Bridget to swing things in their favour. With Purdue paying off everyone who opposes them, these shocking results should be enough to swing things against Purdue – not to mention Rick and Randy’s star witness to corroborate the story they’ve been mis-selling the drug. It’s quite frankly shocking that this drug was even approved in the first place, but there we go,
Dopesick has been a gripping watch from start to finish, and this chapter in particular shows just how difficult it is to get off OxyContin. Despite their best intentions, both Finnix and Betsy find themselves turning back toward drugs again, and it takes a moment of kindness from Leah to potentially save Finnix from certain death. For Betsy though, it’s unclear what’s going to happen to her.
Dopesick has been an enthralling watch over the weeks and this episode is definitely one of the strongest, especially as the investigation starts to ramp up and Purdue’s time at the top starts to sway. With several episodes left to go, everything is left wide open for where this one may go next.