Painkiller Richard Sackler
Matthew Broderick as Richard Sackler in Painkiller

If you’ve seen Netflix’s Painkiller — the new drama series tells the fictionalized story of real company Purdue Pharma, its prescription opioid OxyContin, and the billionaire Sackler family — then you may be wondering where former Purdue chairman and president Richard Sackler is now.

Played by Matthew Broderick in Painkiller, the actor delivers a scathing performance that doesn’t flatter Sackler at all. Broderick’s version of Sackler shows no remorse over having pushed a drug that was so addictive, it’s been attributed as the source of America’s raging opioid crisis.

But Richard Sackler is a real person who is still alive.

Where Is Richard Sackler Now?

Today, Sackler is 78 years old.

He currently lives in a $1.7 million house in Boca Raton, Florida, according to The New York Post, which also noted in February that he was in the process of selling $30 million worth of real estate.

The Sackler family has admitted no wrongdoing in the opioid crisis and the sale of OxyContin. They did, however, agree that the family would pay a $6 billion settlement which would give them immunity from future civil charges related to opioids.

The Sackler family no longer controls Purdue, but they withdrew billions from it before the company filed for bankruptcy in 2019, according to CNN.

But as of Thursday, the Supreme Court has paused the settlement as it figures out whether it is constitutional to let the Sacklers and Purdue off the hook indefinitely from all future litigation. The Supreme Court is set to make a decision about whether to allow the settlement to go forward in December.

According to a 2020 Forbes estimation, the Sackler family — comprised of 40 members — is worth about $10.8 billion, down from $13 billion in 2015.

What’s True in Painkiller and What Is Fiction?

The inner thoughts, feelings, and conversations of the Sackler family were dramatized for the show. And of course, the ghost of Arthur Sackler wasn’t really visiting Richard Sackler and giving him advice — at least not that we know of.

Barry Meier, who wrote the book Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America’s Opioid Epidemic that the show is based on and who served as a consulting producer, said that the dramatization allowed the screenwriters to reach audiences in an emotional way.

Also Read: Who Is Edie Flowers From Painkiller?

“The fact of the matter is that from the very beginning, the Sacklers have hidden themselves behind layers of lawyers and lobbyists and hired mouthpieces. They never stuck their head above the parapet and never said, ‘I am doing this because I believe in this, you want to ask me questions, fire away.’ In some ways, they came across as cowardly. They were happy to have their names up on museums, but when it came to responsibilities for their actions, they didn’t say a word. So what was going on inside the mind of Richard Sackler? Your guess is as good as mine,” Meier told MovieMaker.

“But the fantastic part of the show is that because it’s a dramatization, the screenwriters are able to use the character of Arthur Sackler — who created so many of the techniques that Purdue would use to promote Oxycontin, who created the ethos that Purdue and presumably Richard Sackler embodied when mass marketing this powerful and potentially addicting drug — by using his soul, his spirit, his visitations with Richard Sackler, with Matthew [Broderick]. You’re able to see into the mind of someone, you’re able to understand that Richard Sackler never saw himself as a bad guy. He may have seen himself as someone who is solving one of medicine’s greatest problems — the treatment of pain. But he also became someone who became so deluded with the idea that he was right. He was unable to see all the chaos and the misery that he had contributed to.”

That being said, many of the details about Purdue’s legal cases and the company’s internal emails presented in the show were pulled from reality.

In a 1997 email, just one year after OxyContin hit the market, Richard Sackler told Purdue executives “not to correct a misperception among doctors that OxyContin (was) weaker than morphine” — when it was actually twice as strong, according to ProPublica.

That fits with the show’s narrative that Sackler and other Purdue executives knew they were misleading both doctors and patients in order to drive up OxyContin sales.

It’s also true that Richard Sackler really did blame the patients for getting addicted to OxyContin while on doctor-prescribed doses, while knowing that Purdue paid its drug reps very high bonuses to convince doctors to put their patients on higher and higher doses of the drug.

“We have to hammer on the abusers in every way possible,” Sackler wrote in an email included in a lawsuit brought by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey against Purdue. “They are the culprits and the problem. They are the reckless criminals.”

Main Image: Matthew Broderick as Richard Sackler in Painkiller courtesy of Netflix.