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6 Degrees Entertainment

'FRONTLINE: Opioids Inc.'
(DVD / PG-13 / 2020 / PBS)

Overview: 'FRONTLINE: Opioids Inc.' is the story of a drug company that pushed opioids by bribing doctors and committing insurance fraud.

With the Financial Times, an investigation of how Insys Therapeutics profited from a fentanyl-based painkiller 50 times stronger than heroin.

DVD Verdict: There was a stranger waiting for Sarah Fuller when she visited her doctor to discuss switching medications for her back and neck pain — a saleswoman pitching a prescription version of the potent opioid fentanyl.

The drug, called Subsys, is so powerful, and the risk of addiction and overdose so formidable, that the Food and Drug Administration requires doctors to undergo special training before they are allowed to prescribe it. And it has approved Subsys only for cancer patients who suffer intense flares of pain.

Fuller didn’t have cancer. She had been in two car accidents and been diagnosed with painful fibromyalgia. Yet her physician “let the sales rep start talking about helping her with the pain,” David Fuller, who accompanied his daughter to the appointment, tells us.

Just over a year after that January 2015 office visit, 32-year-old Sarah Fuller was found dead in her bedroom by her fiancé. The county medical examiner ruled her death the result of the “adverse effect of drugs.”

A toxicology screen revealed a level of fentanyl in her blood that experts consulted by STAT said is lethal. There was also a small amount of the anti-anxiety medication Xanax in her system.

Synthetic forms of fentanyl, most of it illegally shipped from China, have flooded into the US and Canada in the past year, causing hundreds of overdose deaths.

But Sarah Fuller’s case shows that the prescription version of the drug can also be dangerous when it’s prescribed “off-label” for conditions it’s not approved for — and that Insys Therapeutics sales reps have encouraged doctors to do just that.

'FRONTLINE: Opioids Inc. captures this and other stories of the opioid crisis through personal stories and interviews with experts, whilst revealing the tragic impact of the overuse of prescription painkillers on individuals, families, and communities.

Watching this documentary, if you haven't learnt something devastingly horrible about opioid's and their rampant designs on all our lives within the first few minutes, than you're simply not listening!

The opioid epidemic or opioid crisis is the rapid increase in the use of prescription and non-prescription opioid drugs in the United States and Canada beginning in the late 1990s and continuing throughout the first two decades of the 2000s.

Opioids are a diverse class of moderately strong painkillers, including oxycodone (commonly sold under the trade names OxyContin and Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin), and a very strong painkiller, fentanyl, which is synthesized to resemble other opiates such as opium-derived morphine and heroin.

The potency and availability of these substances, despite their high risk of addiction and overdose, have made them popular both as formal medical treatments and as recreational drugs.

Due to their sedative effects on the part of the brain which regulates breathing, opioids in high doses present the potential for respiratory depression, and may cause respiratory failure and death.

As we discover, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, "overdose deaths, particularly from prescription drugs and heroin, have reached epidemic levels."

That means that nearly half of all opioid overdose deaths in 2016 involved prescription opioids. From 1999 to 2008, overdose death rates, sales, and substance abuse treatment admissions related to opioid pain relievers all increased substantially.

By 2015, annual overdose deaths from heroin alone surpassed deaths from both car accidents and guns, with other opioid overdose deaths also on the rise.

The stories told here in 'FRONTLINE: Opioids Inc.' often begin with medical treatment for moderate to severe pain that evolve into drug addiction and death.

In addition to the stories, the documentary explores the dramatic increase in the use and acceptance of prescription painkillers and addresses possible solutions to the opioid epidemic including more non-drug treatment for pain, improved opioid prescribing, and reducing the amount of opioids produced and prescribed in America. This is, without a shadow of a doubt, must-see viewing. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.78:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs.