The premiere of Hulu’s Dopesick features the character Curtis Wright – who is the actor behind him and what was the US opioid crisis?
Hulu’s look into the opioid crisis
Dopesick is Hulu’s must-watch miniseries. It’s educational and compelling as it breaks down the devastating effects of the ‘opioid crisis’ in the US. In 2019 alone, about 50,000 people in the US overdosed on opioids.
Dopesick focuses on the Sackler family and their pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, which has been involved in lawsuits in several states for its marketing of OxyContin, which is used for pain relief.
In September 2021, Purdue Pharma agreed to pay $4.5 billion to settle lawsuits related to the crisis after a US judge approved the company’s bankruptcy plan. As reported by the BBC, the move will shield the Sacklers from further legal action over any role in the US opioid epidemic.
Episodes 1 to 3 premiered on 13 October 2021, which include minor character Curtis Wright. However, Wright’s name is significant in relation to Purdue Pharma.
Brian Keane as Curtis Wright
Brian Keane should not to be mistaken for the Emmy and Grammy-winning composer of the same name.
Keane has mostly been in supporting roles during his career, but some of them are for pretty huge shows.
He portrayed Ray Meyers in House Of Card‘s Chapter 67 in 2018, Mr Hamlin in Paramount+ show Evil, and Bill in Emmy-winning series Love, Death And Robots. You know Bill, Jeanette’s neighbour who saved her from a deadly Vacuubot.
You can check what he’s up to on Instagram.
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The real Curtis Wright was acting director at the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research and, in 1995, he approved OxyContin as providing relief for “moderate to severe pain”.
The book Empire of Pain: The Secret History Of The Sackler Dynasty accuses Wright of accepting a $400,000 deal to join Purdue Pharma and immediately holding senior positions. He eventually became executive director for risk assessment and health policy.
His FDA report dated 16 October 1995 cautioned:
“This product (OxyContin) has been shown to be as good as current therapy, but has not been shown to have a significant advantage beyond reduction in frequency of dosing.”
That stamp of approval suggested the medication’s “delayed absorption” was “believed to reduce” over dosage. The approval was a first for a drug of that kind, despite an apparent lack of evidence.
- MORE: Where is Dopesick set? Hulu series recounts US opioid crisis
However, David Kessler, FDA commissioner at the time, explained it’s understandable how they reached that conclusion:
He said: “There was a belief, based on the data, that if you controlled the release, you would not get the highs and lows associated with addiction. There was a kernel of truth in that, but it ended up not being used in that way.”
In 20 years, the number of overdose deaths involving prescription opioids has quadrupled, with almost 247,000 deaths between 1999 and 2019.
As reported by Reuters, other pharmaceutical companies have been accused of “deceptively marketing prescription painkillers by downplaying the risks of addiction”.