Home » HBO Documentary Films: CRIME OF THE CENTURY | Review

HBO Documentary Films: CRIME OF THE CENTURY | Review

by Jef Dinsmore
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Overview: HBO’s THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY, a two-part documentary directed by Emmy and Academy Award winner Alex Gibney and presented in association with The Washington Post, is a searing indictment Docs_CrimeOfTheCentury-Poster-257x300of Big Pharma and the political operatives and government regulations that enabled over-production, reckless distribution and abuse of synthetic opiates. With the help of whistleblowers, insiders, newly-leaked documents, exclusive interviews, behind-the-scenes access to investigations, and featuring expert input from medical professionals, journalists, former and current government agents, attorneys, and pharmaceutical sales representatives, as well as sobering testimony from victims of opioid addiction, Gibney’s exposé posits that drug companies are in fact largely responsible for manufacturing the very crisis they profit from, to the tune of billions of dollars… and hundreds of thousands of lives. Debut Date: Part I Monday, May 10; Part 2 Tuesday, May 11, 2021. Now on HBO Max.

Expectations: I’ve seen and read enough about this crisis really. But somehow it isn’t complete without the definitive report from Alex Gibney. There are only a few documentarians who give a thorough and complete picture of a topic, at least for me. Ken Burns and Alex Gibney are the main two that can achieve it. Therefore, I must take in THE CRIME OF THE CENTURY, all four hours’ worth.

Gut Reaction: Part I: It begins with a history of opium & opioids; then moves onto the history & lineage of the Sackler brothers, Arthur, Raymond, and Mortimer. They worked in a mental hospital together and were repulsed by electro-shock therapy which was quite popular in their day. They believed mental illness was caused by chemical imbalances, and that if that were so, chemicals were the answer to stabilizing the balance as well. They bought a pharmaceutical company (Perdure Frederick) and a marketing company to push and at the same time, promote, often with questionable marketing practices drugs like Librium and Valium. Thus, their manipulative & scheming practices began and quickly moved into pain management and the aggressive promotion of OxyContin. 

Part II: Here we learned how the manipulation of governmental policies and deceptive sales representatives rocketed the addiction level upward. But then the greedy players were not just Sackler’s as the mass marketing of the synthetic opioid fentanyl escalated ‘pill mills’ into play as well. Companies like InSys Therapeutic became glorified drug dealers, duping insurance companies & patients all in the name of profits, not proper health care. The level of corruption all to gain a buck and luxury at the literal pain of someone else is deeply cruel. 

Conclusion: The crime of the century is that Perdue, the Sackler family and ‘pill mills’ had enough people in play to rewrite policy, manipulate marketing, and embolden representatives to push the pablum and thus, duping the industry and society, which led to accelerated addiction and death and then, walking away with a ‘slap on the wrist.’

This Gibney documentary leaves you enlightened and if you can take it in, please do so, but it will leave you quite angry.

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