The Pharmacist series review: Netflix reveals pained father unravelling the opioid crisis

By Daniel Hart
Published: January 29, 2020 (Last updated: January 16, 2023)
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Netflix series The Pharmacist


Netflix docuseries The Pharmacist reveals a pained father figuring out the death of his son while confronting the opioid crisis but it leaves little answers for the future.

Netflix series The Pharmacist will be released on the platform on February 5, 2020.

Docuseries The Pharmacist exemplifies the pain of losing a child. The Netflix series introduces us to town pharmacist Dan Schneider, a man that felt the trauma of losing his son to drugs in a black neighborhood fuelled by the drug war. Dan is a man on a mission and there are two sides of The Pharmacist: Finding out who murdered his son and bringing to the surface the unofficial opioid crisis.

Trauma can spur a person to madness. In the case of The Pharmacist, we are witnessing a father risking his own life, entering the bowels of a deprived, poor black neighborhood to find his son’s killer. The docuseries presents a man possessed, articulating his own conspiracies within a community that experiences homicides on a regular basis. The Pharmacist should really be a story of how a father struggled to find the murderer and recklessly finds more clues. The Netflix series becomes more than that. This story is set before the opioid crisis was a recognized epidemic. Dan was an unofficial founder of the term.

The Pharmacist is more than a dramatized version of Dan’s experiences coupled with intense interviews and plenty of tears. It becomes technical in the latter half, discussing the notion of oxycodone; how the 12-hour effective pain relief is easily sourced behind the counter by a simple prescription by a doctor. It explores how the popular drug that costs the lives of many is “heroin in a pill”. It’s addictive, easily consumable and the commercial model is prosperous.

As we already know, the opioid crisis is born from greed; an epidemic spurred on by Big Pharma and doctors at the expense of the less wealthy, bestowed by a simple pill. The Pharmacist puts the viewers into a bubble, into Dan’s world rather than swimming at the surfaces with the gluttonous executives.

As the title suggests, Dan was a pharmacist during his findings, reeling and determined to ensure more young adults do not experience the same downfall as his son. The docuseries explores how Dan investigated the root of the many purchases of oxycodone, which involves a high volume of prescriptions from a particular doctor. It’s easy to see Dan as a paranoid madman, but the Netflix series slowly pieces together the problem over the course of four chapters.

But while the Netflix series is insightful and shows an amount of courage from a pained father, it leaves a bitter taste; there is no real resolution…

I recently watched Spotlight and what always sparks my interest is how incredibly important the editor is — Martin ‘Marty’ Baron. His screentime is limited, but his tight space within the minutes serves the most purpose in the film. He discusses freely as an outsider that going after the system will be the only way to make a difference. I sense The Pharmacist gives us a sense of heroism and pulls at our heartstrings due to the crippling tragedy, but what clouds the Netflix series is the lack of accountability towards the Big Pharma executives that destroys families to fill their pockets. Dan goes after a source, a doctor, but the system produces the sources.

The Pharmacist is a hero’s story and sparked the recognition of the opioid crisis, but as we watch yet another docuseries that marks the epidemic, it’s still oddly silent — there are no answers, and the epidemic remains.

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