HBO Sets 2-Part Opioid Epidemic Doc ‘Crime of the Century’ From Director Alex Gibney

Documentary is a “searing indictment” of Big Pharma, political operatives and government regulations that enable opioid crisis

Alex Gibney
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A two-part documentary about America’s opioid epidemic directed by Alex Gibney is coming to HBO, the premium cable channel revealed Wednesday during its day at the virtual Television Critics Association press tour.

Gibney, the filmmaker behind HBO’s “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley” and “Going Clear: Scientology & the Prison of Belief,” has directed his new doc, “The Crime of the Century,” to examine the role of Big Pharma and the political operatives and government regulations that enable overproduction, reckless distribution and abuse of synthetic opiates.

The two-part series will explore the origins, extent and fallout of one of a public health tragedy that has claimed half a million overdose deaths since 2000. The film will include testimony from 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 accounts from victims of opioid addiction.

“The Crime of the Century” will debut on HBO in May and be available to stream on HBO Max.

The first half of the doc will focus on how “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,” according to HBO. “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.”

“The Crime of the Century” Part 1 will include interviews with 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 2 of Gibney-directed doc will shine “a spotlight on the mass marketing of the synthetic opioid fentanyl and examines the connections between drug manufacturers and government policy,” according to HBO. “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.”

“The Crime of the Century” Part 2 will feature stories of “personal tragedy from first responders, survivors and family members of opioid victims with the timeline of corporate greed and malfeasance,” including interviews with 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.

“The Crime of the Century” is written and directed by Gibney, who produces alongside Sarah Dowland and Svetlana Zill. The doc is executive produced by Stacey Offman, Richard Perello, Todd Hoffman and Aaron Fishman. For HBO, senior producer is Tina Nguyen and executive producers are Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller.

The documentary hails from HBO Documentary Films and Jigsaw Production in association with Storied Media Group.


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