Netflix’s shocking series, ‘Pain Hustlers’, reveals the real face of pharmaceutical companies and their role in exacerbating the opioid epidemic. In the narrative around Zanna Therapeutics and their revolutionary cancer pain drug, Lonafen, one personality jumps out—Matt Ellison.
The Matt Ellison character plays a central role in the life of protagonist Liza Drake, and this raises the question of whether or not he is based upon a real cancer patient. We shall search for the possible inspiration that might have led to this interesting character.
Jeffrey Buchalter: A Potential Inspiration
The link between ‘Pain Hustlers’ and real-life events is clear, as the series originated in Evan Hughes’ book after he wrote a New York Times article concerning the opioid crisis — particularly Insys Therapeutics. Although the series narrates a fictional story, it takes its cues from real-life events, and Jeffrey Buchalter would have, therefore, been an inspiration for Matt Ellison.
Jeffrey Buchalter, an Iraq war veteran, required the use of Subsys, a medication painkiller with similar characteristics to Lonafen, which led into the addiction trap. The physician, Dr. William Tham of Annapolis, prescribed Subsys, which addressed the physical and psychological problems stemming from Buchalter’s military service. However, the overprescribing of 19,000 micrograms of Subsys daily resulted in dire consequences.
The narrative of Buchalter follows the theme evident in ‘Pain Hustlers’ on over-prescription and addiction. He provided approximately $ 1 million to Insys profit with subsequent detox at Fort Belvoir that amounted to bad practice by lead players in the pharmaceutical industry.
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Matt Ellison’s Character: Fictional Amalgamation
Although the characterization of Matt Ellison in ‘Pain Hustlers’ resembles that of Jeffrey Buchalter, there are significant differences. However, Ellison is another war veteran who takes a different path. Lonafen connects with him through medicine, cancer, and breakthrough pain. This deliberate deviation creates a distinction between Ellison and Buchalter, which gives an even presentation of individuals influenced by the drug industry practices.
Matt Ellison is a composite fictional character; he draws upon various experiences, some bits of which are based on Buchalter’s story. By merging these tragedies, the series manages to paint a more comprehensive picture of the opioid crisis, which seems relatable in different corners of America.
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Matt Ellison’s character in ‘Pain Hustlers’ is an embodiment of moving a painful message to real people, namely, that pharmaceuticals indirectly influence their lives and dismiss it with no mercy. Although based on true events like the story where his character was stolen from Jeffrey Buchalter, Ellison’s creation has a distinctive mix of backgrounds, which makes audiences see different faucets in one case under study. As the audience immerses in this series, they observe how the line between fiction and reality becomes blurred to form a story which should draw viewers’ attention to unethical practices in the pharmaceutical industry.