30 APR 2021


An investigation that reveals the inner cogs of the multibillion dollar industry behind the distribution and abuse of synthetic opioids. Made in two episodes, the first of which will premiere on May 11 exclusively on HBO and HBO GO.


On May 11, HBO will premiere the documentary "The Crime of the Century", directed by Alex Gibney, winner of the Emmy and the Oscar ('Bleeding Silicon Valley' and 'Scientology: Hollywood and The Prison of Faith'), presented in association with The Washington Post. Made in two episodes, the first will premiere on May 11 and the second will air the next day. It will also be available via streaming on HBO GO.

"The Crime of the Century" is a relentless indictment of the big pharmaceutical companies, political operators and state agencies that allowed the excessive overproduction, reckless distribution and abuse of synthetic opioids. It explores the origins, scale and consequences of one of the most devastating public health tragedies of today, which caused half a million overdose deaths this century alone, making it clear that America's opioid epidemic does not it is a public health crisis that arose out of nowhere.

With the help of whistleblowers, insiders, newly-leaked documents, exclusive interviews and 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.

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.

The part one of the documentary focuses on how 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 huge opioid distributors like Cardinal-Health would settle the cases, keeping the details private and continuing 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 part two of "The Crime of the Century" shines a spotlight on the mass marketing of the synthetic opioid fentanyl and examines the connections between drug manufacturers and government policy. While America’s silent epidemic was killing 40 people per 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 – often flush with campaign donations from Big Pharma – worked to undermine law enforcement and turned a blind eye to the implications of a complex pipeline that delivers billions of opioid pills around the country.

With extraordinary access to exclusive videos, whistleblowers and investigators, "The Crime of the Century" includes an unpublished video of Richard Sackler's 2015 testimony in the trial that faced the state of Kentucky with Purdue Pharma .; never-before-seen corporate videos from Purdue Pharma and Insys Therapeutics; interviews with former DEA officials, including Rannazzisi, who led the most important investigations of the complex networks of the pharmaceutical industry; Exclusive interviews with former pharmaceutical company sales representatives who describe in detail the illegal and unethical practices of bribing doctors and encouraging them to prescribe high doses of opioids. Among those interviewed are Alex Burlakoff, former vice president of sales for Insys; Leaked Justice Department documents showing detailed allegations of fraud, conspiracy, and embezzlement by Purdue, including inappropriate contacts with the FDA Medical Officer (who was later hired by Purdue), who was part of the OxyContin approval process before the entity. Plus, exclusive access to the DEA's Special Narcotics Team, San Diego's Team 10; as well as award-winning Washington Post journalists and their investigative articles on the origins and evolution of the opioid crisis, revealing surprising data, such as the fact that more than 100 billion doses were sold between 2006 and 2014 oxycodone and hydrocodone.

HBO Documentary Films’ presents a Jigsaw Production in association with The Washington Post and Storied Media Group, "The Crime of the Century" written and directed by Alex Gibney; produced by Alex Gibney, Sarah Dowland, and Svetlana Zill; executive produced by Stacey Offman, Richard Perello, Todd Hoffman, and Aaron Fishman; For HBO: senior producer, Tina Nguyen; executive producers, Nancy Abraham and Lisa Heller.

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