The Crime Of The Century

“The Crime Of The Century” is certainly an appropriate title and there’s definitely an abundance of head-scratchers here about how such a travesty could still be going on, even as the opioid epidemic smashes through the 450,000 American deaths statistic. How far & how high that number goes nobody knows. Just that it does continue in spite of many thousands of lawsuits and multiple State Attorney General’s trying to bring them down and seize their vast fortune for at least some recompense to victims and their families. One can only conclude that as evil as it is, this family is also imbued with a genius rarely ever seen. 

The trickery started way back in the 60’s with tranquilizers such as Valium and Librium. They are benzodiazepines that work by enhancing the effect of a neurotransmitter in the brain named GABA, which is a tranquilizing transmitter and highly addictive. That is how the first generation of Sackler crooks cut their teeth. When they discovered OxyContin, they knew they’d found “The Mother Load.” With the help of hundreds if not thousands of criminal doctors prescribing, druggists dispensing and others happy to take payoffs to attract victims, they have prospered to the tune of many billions of $. Their team of enablers even including the venerable McKinsey, the top consulting firm in the world! 

What does it tell you about the Sackler’s? It is that they are as brilliant and clever as any criminal enterprise we have ever seen. But the rule is that the longer an evil doer is able to keep their enterprise going, the deeper the hole they dig for themselves will be. In the Sackler’s case, their pariah status has been broadly recognized and the tide has turned. This forecasts a very large crater!

~ Rob

(CNN)The title “The Crime of the Century” serves multiple purposes in director Alex Gibney’s HBO documentary, highlighting the criminality associated with an opioid epidemic that has dragged on throughout this century. While the focus is on Purdue Pharma and the family behind it, the four-hour project spreads the blame, building on existing reporting with “secret documents and never-before-released depositions.”

Adding to his dizzying output over the past year, Gibney — whose recent HBO productions include “Totally Under Control,” “Agents of Chaos” and “Crazy, Not Insane” — outlines the “spectacular crime” at the foundation of the crisis, including the way doctors were steered, prodded and in some cases bribed to prescribe opioids, and politicians influenced (in concert with hefty donations) to protect the industry.

Presented in association with the Washington Post, whose reporters are prominently featured, “Crime of the Century” at times plays like a glossy thriller. At the core of that sits the Sackler family, the proprietors of OxyContin maker Purdue, who have been spared prosecution despite a 2007 settlement in which the company agreed to pay a $600 million fine — an outcome that Gibney (who also narrates the piece) describes as “the illusion of justice.”

The interviews include a sales rep who expressed concern about over-prescribing the drugs recalling being told, “It’s not your job to be a policeman.” Yet policing — in the form of government regulation — was also swayed against taking action, with some later becoming lobbyists and advocates for companies that they had investigated.

As scientists interviewed note, the drugs themselves were designed principally to ease discomfort associated with end-of-life care, but companies realized the market would be far larger if opioids were prescribed for all kinds of pain.

210506094431-the-crime-of-the-century-hbo-exlarge-169.jpgDirector Alex Gibney’s The Crime of the Century’ focuses on the opioid crisis (Courtesy of HBO).

The devastating consequences of that are illustrated via testimonials about the horrors of OxyContin addiction, sometimes related by loved ones left behind. Other notable voices include West Virginia doctor Art Van Zee, who pushed back against the drug companies; and Dr. Lynn Webster, whose Life Tree Pain Clinic — representing another business that flourished during the epidemic — was associated with multiple patient overdose deaths.

Several familiar faces pop up, including Rudy Giuliani, who was hired to advocate on Purdue’s behalf in the mid-2000s, when the company faced a federal investigation.

The second half focuses heavily on former DEA official Joseph Rannazzisi; and Alec Burlakoff, a top salesman at Insys Therapeutics who pleaded guilty to bribing doctors. Burlakoff also recruited a former stripper, Sunrise Lee, to join the company, with their interviews in essence representing the foot soldiers swept up by these schemes.

The Sacklers, meanwhile, withdrew billions from Purdue, which declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019. The previously unseen depositions include one with CEO Richard Sackler, in a 2015 lawsuit brought by Kentucky, one of several states that reached multimillion-dollar settlementswith the company.

As Gibney puts it, the truly awful aspect of the opioid crisis is that it was “manufactured,” dispensing 100 billion pills between 2006 and 2014. “Did the companies really think that all those pills were for back pain?” Gibney asks.

The question lingers, as do the consequences suffered — and just as significantly, avoided — in conjunction with “The Crime of the Century.”

“Crime of the Century” will air May 10-11 at 9 p.m. on HBO, which, like CNN, is a unit of WarnerMedia.

Empire of Pain, the American Dynasty Behind OxyContin

Empire of Pain, the American Dynasty Behind OxyContin


Kirkus Reviews, the gold-standard for independent & accurate reviews, has this to say about

What Goes Around Comes Around:

A stable, positive, non preachy, objective voice makes the book stand apart from others in the genre. A successful guide that uses anecdotes to reveal powerful truths about life.

~ Kirkus Reviews

“The author gives readers not just points or principles to ponder, but real human experiences that demonstrate them!
Kirkus Reviews

“I’ve read a number of books that focus on sharing a similar message, including “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne, “The Answer” by John Assaraf & Murray Smith, “The Celestine Prophecy” by James Redfield, “Think and Grow Rich,” by Napoleon Hill, and I must say that I find Rob’s to be my favorite. – Sheryl Woodhouse, founder of Livelihood Matters LLC