Where is John Kapoor Now? Inspiration Behind Pain Hustlers Explained

By Louie Fecou
Published: October 28, 2023 (Last updated: 5 weeks ago)
John Kapoor, the inspiration behind Netflix's Pain Hustlers
John Kapoor arrives for sentencing at federal court on Jan 23, 2020. | Image via Charles Krupa/AP

The shocking and satirical Netflix drama Pain Hustlers, starring Emily Blunt and Chris Evans, follows the fictional story of down on her down-on-her-luck single mother Liza, trying to find a better life for herself and her daughter. She finds employment at a shady pharmaceutical company, Zanna Therapeutics, selling highly addictive opioids. Zanna is based on the real-world company Insys Therapeutics, and the CEO is based on Insys’s real founder John Kapoor.

Who is John Kapoor?

Kapoor was born in the early 1940s in Punjab, India. He would study in Mumbai at the Institute of Chemical Technology and earned a degree in pharmacy.

Kapoor would receive a scholarship in the U.S. and move there, studying at the University of Buffalo. By 1972, he would achieve a doctorate in medicinal chemistry and start work at Ivenex Pharmaceutical.

However, a scandal would occur with Kapoor in a position at a company called LyphoMed, which was involved in dangerous production failures that led to deadly repercussions for patients taking their products.

After founding Insys Pharmaceuticals, Kapoor realized the incredible financial gain that could be made from marketing the opioid spray pain killer Subsys. The spray would be highly addictive, containing Fentanyl, which made Subsys approximately 100 percent more potent than morphine and 50 times more potent than heroin, helping to accelerate an opioid crisis that was occurring in the US.

Where is John Kapoor Now?

Kapoor was arrested in 2017 in Arizona and charged with RICO conspiracy, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and conspiracy to violate the Anti-Kickback Statue. By May of 2019, Kapoor and four Insys executives were found guilty of racketeering.

In 2020, Kapoor, seventy-six at the time, was sentenced to five and a half years in prison, a sentence that was considered lenient by the US government. He was ordered to pay a fine of a quarter of a million dollars and must undergo three years of supervised release.

A report in Reuters would state that Kapoor was released in June 2023, after only serving two years in prison.

John Kapoor, founder and CEO of Insys Therapeutics

John Kapoor outside John Joseph Moakley United States Courthouse in Boston on Jan. 29, 2019. | Image: Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

How did John Kapoor inspire Pain Hustlers?

John Kapoor is the inspiration for the character of Jack Neel in the film, and the character pretty much mirrors the actions of Kapoor. He is the CEO of Zanna Therapeutics.

Neel is played in the film by Andy Garcia, and the film follows a lot of the real-life events that happened. In the ending of Pain Hustlers, he is sentenced to five years in prison, as Kapoor was.

The True Story Behind Pain Hustlers

Sadly, although Pain Hustlers is a fictionalized account of events, it pretty much captures the greed and ambition of an industry that would put financial gain over the lives of the people it was dealing with.

The addictive nature of the substances used in the medication led to an opioid crisis in the U.S. and the lives of many people being ruined.

Pain Hustlers is a film that only takes inspiration from real-life events, but there are many documentaries that you can watch that offer up a more balanced and medically accurate approach to the subject, including The Crime of the Century on HBO, about the same Sackler family covered in Painkiller.

RELATED: Where was Pain Hustlers on Netflix filmed?

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