The Crime of The Century

Pills. Profits. Peril.

Did Purdue Pharma’s actions lead to an opioid crisis?

Directed by Alex Gibney (known for “Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room”), this is a 2-part series:

  • Part 1: U.S. opioid crisis unfolds. Purdue Pharma, Sacklers, and FDA’s Curtis Wright IV intertwine.OxyContin gets wider approval.
  • Part 2: Fentanyl’s dark rise. Over 40 deaths daily. Insys Therapeutics bribes doctors. Deceitful marketing, insurance scams thrive. Lawmakers ignore the mayhem.

Trailer for “The Crime of the Century”


Where to Watch “The Crime of the Century”

You can watch the doc on:


  • Genre: Pharmaceuticals, Corporate Ethics
  • Released: 2021
  • Director: Alex Gibney
  • Duration: 120 minutes

My Favorite Parts (Includes Spoiler Alerts!)

  • Purdue hires a littany of insiders to help it including Rudy Giuliani, Mary Jo White and officials of the Justice Department and Food Drug Administration including Physician Curtis Wright helped draft the review of OxyContin on its way to the open market.
  • Former Purdue sales reps discuss bribing doctors and encouraging them to prescribe high doses of opionds. Gary Blinn, an ex-Heroin addict with a high threshold for opiates, says Purdue asks him to take as many OxyContin as he needs for pain to test side effects (presumably overdose). He takes 25 high-potency pills twice a day (“like sitting down to a bowl of “Cheerios”, Blinn recalls. “Enough to kill an elephant’, another expert says. It was the equivalent of 200 hits of heroin per day. He was a Guinnea pig”, he says.
  • Pharma sales folks are featured including a talented strip club dancer who Insys Pharma VP of Sales calls the best sales person he’s met.
  • There are heroes too: former Purdue sales rep Mark Ross, Adt Van Zee (a small-town physician from Virginia). Pursue promotes the idea of “pseudo-addiction” which is not addiction and in fact “pseudo-addicted” people just need HIGHER doses.
  • Johnson & Johnson creates a product called Concentrated Poppy Straw and also Super Pippy (a synthetic version of poppies). J&J supplied this to Pursue. While Purdue’s OxyContin had a slow release. Many users of it crush it up which releases it immediately.
  • A company called Insys reportedly had reps call insurance companies lying about patients’ prognosis in order to get payment.
  • “More addictive than heroin” – Internal memo quote.

Thanks for reading!

-Rob Kelly