The medicine that killed 500,000 people

OxyContin was sold in pharmacies in the United States without problems. It was a powerful pain reliever. It calmed the pain. Its manufacturer, the Sackler family, billed about 3,000 million dollars annually thanks to this drug. But OxyContin was not clean wheat. It was a very powerful opiate. After consuming just a few doses, its users were hooked.

Image from the documentary 'Beauty and Pain', by Laura Poitras

Image from the documentary ‘Beauty and Pain’, by Laura Poitras

elastic films

The well-known photographer Nan Goldin, who portrayed New York in the 70s and 80s, was one of the victims of OxyContin. She “she injured a wrist in 2014 and was prescribed this medicine. When she left the hospital, she was already addicted and was about to overdose, ”explains filmmaker Laura Poitras in a videoconference interview with The vanguard .

“There were people who got hooked on OxyContin and, when no one prescribed it anymore, they became addicted to other drugs”

With Golin’s story as the common thread, Poitras has directed the documentary beauty and pain which delves into the havoc caused by OxyContin, the business of the Sackler family –also known for its philanthropy– and Golin’s fight to unmask the dynasty that manufactured and marketed this murderous drug that has already caused half a million deaths. deaths in the United States.

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Poitras is aware that “for Europeans, it is difficult to understand how OxyContin came to be sold so easily in the United States, because opium is known to be addictive and you have to be careful. Although on occasion it may be necessary, it must be provided with the utmost caution. To try to understand it, you have to go back to the mid-90s “when Purdue Pharma, the Sackler company, saw that the Oxycodone patent was going to expire and that it would lose a lot of money, so it created another drug, OxyContin.”

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The FDA, the regulator that grants the licenses, authorized its sale “without stating on the label the true addictive impact of this new medicine.” Later, “the Sacklers talked to the doctors and convinced them that, even though it was an opiate, OxyContin was safe. Since it had the go-ahead from the FDA, doctors started prescribing it. They gave it for cases that would have been cured with a simple aspirin. The Sacklers made a list of the doctors who prescribed this medicine and bribed them with trips and vacations, ”says Poitras, who met Nan Goldin in 2014 and decided to tell her story in 2019.

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This is how the opiate crisis began in the United States, which has already claimed 500,000 deaths: “In the early 2000s it was noticed that many users became addicted, overdosed and died. The first affected were white people from the rural world with limited economic resources. There were people who got hooked on OxyContin and when no one prescribed it anymore, they became addicted to other drugs like fentanyl, which is much stronger than heroin and very dangerous.


Laura Poitras


Why did the US government allow this serious crisis? Poitras attributes it to the fact that “American society is capitalist, without a public health system and allows pharmaceutical companies to get rich without seeing the damage they cause.” And so it is, because the Sacklers got off scot-free: “Unfortunately, nothing important happened to them. With his campaign, Goldin managed to get some museums, not all, to withdraw his name as benefactors, but they have not been criminally responsible. Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy and is trying to reach an agreement with its creditors. Justice has not been done”, concludes Poitras.

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Elton Gardner

Elton Gardner is a seasoned writer and editor for He is a graduate of a prestigious journalism school and has contributed to numerous newspapers and magazines. Elton is an expert in various fields, including sports, entertainment, and technology. He is widely respected for his insights and engaging writing style. As an editor, Elton oversees a team of writers and ensures the website stays current with the latest trends and breaking news. His writing is characterized by its depth, clarity, and accessibility. Elton's spare time is spent with his family, playing sports, reading, and traveling to explore new cultures. With his talent, experience, and dedication, Elton Gardner is a prominent figure in online media and will continue to make waves in the years to come.

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