The Netflix crime drama film ‘Pain Hustlers’ follows the story of Liza Drake, the woman credited for the rise and fall of an infamous painkiller fentanyl drug Lonafen, peddled by the big bucks Pharma company, Zanna Therepueticals. Liza begins her desperate chase for money and success without damning her morals. Still, over the course of Zanna’s expansion and Lonafen’s growing influence, a certain lack of ethics wedges itself in every contributor’s actions, including the single mother.
Nathan Lydell, the first doctor who enrolled in Zanna’s Speaker Program and promoted Lonafen to newer heights, remains one of the most directly culpable individuals in Lonafen’s doomed demise. As such, he’s the first of the bunch to get caught for his actions, alerting the others of the drowning ship that Zanna becomes overnight. If you’re wondering how exactly the doctor managed to get caught and what his crimes entailed, here is everything you need to know. SPOILERS AHEAD!
Nathan Lydell’s Descent Into Criminality
From Lydell’s first introduction into the narrative, he portrays a doctor with the reputation of putting painkillers on the market on account of his practice, which is essentially a pill mill, i.e., a place specializing in writing prescriptions to patients. As such, he becomes the perfect target for Zanna, who wants him to start prescribing their cancer breakthrough painkillers. Nevertheless, in the world of pharmaceuticals, brand loyalty remains a pertinent thing.
Lydell already has an agreement with Praxiom Therepueticals and their XeraPhen medications, which are essentially fentanyl painkillers on a lollipop stick. Since Praxiom is the number one painkiller brand in the industry as of now, their reps are able to hold Lydell’s attention, unlike Liza. The fact that Lydell enjoys the attention that Praxiom’s sales rep, an attractive woman, gives him obviously helps the brand’s case.
Therefore, Lydell continues to prescribe XeraPhen to his patients even after the drug stops becoming helpful. As a result, one of his patients, Matt Ellison, a cancer survivor dealing with pain from mouth sores, is perpetually lethargic due to the medication that doesn’t even resolve his pain issues. While Liza tries to approach Lydell through the classic pitch, she soon realizes the same won’t work on him. Yet, when she is at the end of her candle, Liza finds an opportunity for success through Matt.
Since XeraPhen and Lonafen are chemically identical, but the latter has a faster onset time, it will take effect much quicker and provide relief to Matt’s mouth sores. Yet, even though Lonafen is the clear winner in the matter, Lydell has to be convinced by Liza and Matt’s family to prescribe the drug to the man. In doing so, he exhibits his attribute of having little regard for his patients with only his own financial gain in mind, which eventually becomes the key to his downfall.
After Lydell agrees to prescribe Lonafen, Zanna launches its Speaker Programs that bring the company and its drug to the top of the pharmaceutical industry. While Speaker Programs are supposed to be a place for doctors to discuss medicines and advise their fellow medical practitioners to utilize certain drugs in their practice, Zanna’s Speaker Programs took a different approach. Essentially, Zanna tells doctors to write scripts for Lonafen in exchange for various luxuries, including sexual favors from their sales representatives. Therefore, after receiving its initial bump from Lydell, Zanna takes over other doctors as well.
Nevertheless, Jack Neel’s greed grows with its company’s reputation. Even though his company is bringing in $170 million in a quarter, he believes Zanna’s failing since there hasn’t been any visible growth. Therefore, he decides he wants to compel the doctors to write Lonafen scripts even for ailments other than cancer. However, since Lonafen is only approved for opioid-tolerant cancer patients, doing so would mean pushing doctors to go off-label.
Lydell, as it would turn out, has no issue in doing so alongside numerous other doctors. As such, Lonafen begins to be sold off-label. Furthermore, given Lydell’s reputation, he begins prescribing Lonafen to people without regard to its consequences. Thus, one of his patients tries to vie for something stronger than Vicodin for his non-medicinal uses. By depositing a wad of cash on Lydell’s table, the man makes his intentions known.
Still, instead of turning him away and suggesting the man seek professional help for his early-stage addiction, Lydell decides to prescribe him Lonafen. As it would turn out, the patient is actually an undercover cop, and his visit to the clinic has been a sting operation to catch Lydell writing unethical scripts for addictive drugs. Ultimately, Lydell gets caught for the same reason that he was Zanna’s top doctor: his lack of a moral code.