An Unbiased and Completely True Review Of..."The Pharmacist" Essay
What’s It All About?
In a small parish just East of New Orleans, a father investigates his sons murder, which leads him down a rabbit hole of opioid abuse in his town.
Dan Schneider was working at a local pharmacy in the small town of Poydras, in the St. Bernard parish just outside of New Orleans in 1999 when his son, Daniel Jr., was shot in an apparent drug dispute in the Ninth Ward area, a known drug hotbed. Dan just could have mourned for his son, and left the police department to act and find the killer, but something just wasn’t letting him do this. Instead, he began an extensive investigation of his own into the murder.
He would place flyers in the Ninth Ward, knock on doors of homes that were located near the site of the murder. All of this despite the threats of violence and need for local protection from the church community. Months of investigation led him to two witnesses to the crime, one who may be telling the truth, and one that maybe isn’t telling everything that they know.
When the shoe drops on the case, and the true perpetrator of the crime is identified and everything that happens in the court case, it is mind bending. Dan, though, even after having the murderer convicted of the crime and sent to prison still feels a hole within himself, a hole that leads him down a secondary path of justice.
Working as a pharmacist gave him a unique first person perspective of the burgeoning opioid use in America. As he starts seeing more and more people come to the counter with prescriptions for OxyContin, he starts to wonder about things. As the parent of a child who was an addict, and paid the ultimate price for that addiction, he feels that he should speak to the young people he sees come to the counter with their little piece of paper in hand. He talks to them, telling them about the dangers of the medication, about misusing the medication, even going as far as asking them what they need the medication for. He doesn’t like the answers he is given.
Since there is a rash of people coming to him for Oxy, he begins to take a closer look at the prescriptions coming in and notices that they are, for the most part, coming from a single source. This piques his interest immediately, as there is no way on Earth that this could be possible. He sets out to investigate the local pill mill, videotaping the exterior, sending a mole inside to find things out, even going to the FBI and DEA with his information. Little does he know that the DEA is in a long term investigation themselves and have the pill mill on their radar. He doesn’t feel that the DEA is moving fast enough on the case, and continues his surveillance, until a level of personal satisfaction is reached for him, and even then there is still not an end to his drive.
Since the vast majority of the OxyContin that was prescribed was manufactured by Purdue Pharma, he begins a crusade against the corporate giant itself. Since the opioid crisis is so prevalent and the billions of dollars earning corporation is such a formidable opponent, it takes all of his reserve and the power of the DEA, FBI and State Health Department to take down this giant.
So What Do I Think?
A fascinating look at the huge difference a single person can make in the world. Dan did not have to continue the search for his son’s killer, could have just moved on with his life and continued working in the pharmacy. He didn’t have to have a conscience and see that the Oxy prescriptions were way out of line and fill them just like his boss asked. All of this could have just been left at the status quo and he would have lived a quiet and peaceful life with his wife and daughter. But he chose not to.
The ability of this man to go into a neighborhood where being white made him a target, especially when the dealers in the neighborhood found out that he was sniffing around looking for his son’s murderer, was stunning. The few allies he made in the neighborhood truly put themselves on the line as well, placing themselves squarely in the kill zone for helping him with his investigation.
The witnesses that he comes across were and interesting pair, and seeing how their stories played out really brings home the interconnection of our lives, no matter how different we are in social standing, color, age, or financial situation. It was particularly sad that like in most crimes that occur in the poorest areas of a city, that “nobody saw anything”. Despite the fact that both Dan and the police know that there are individuals that were within eyesight of the murder, nobody comes forward until a 10K reward is offered for the conviction of the person responsible. Suddenly, tips come flying into the police station, the vast majority of them lead to nothing, but the tenacity of Dan going through the phone book and literally calling all the homes in a several block radius of the murder scene until he got answer he wanted was inspiring.
Solving his son’s murder was only the tip of the iceberg for this one man detective agency. When he starts to provide advice to the customers he clearly knows are not in need of the Oxy, you can’t help but root for the guy. You know that the hurt he felt after losing his son is driving him to make sure that no other parent needs to have that same experience in their life. Then when he begins going after the pill mill, it really starts getting crazy.
The mere fact that this guy had the chutzpah to call the FBI and DEA directly, send them copies of his video surveillance and audio tapes is staggering. To say that the law enforcement agencies tolerated this guy is understating it in the extreme. He hounded them mercilessly. Of course since they were in an active investigation of the pill mill, they couldn’t divulge any information to him, and that should have roadblocked him from continuing. But this is Dan Schneider, Pharmacist Investigations, INC here and he is not going to be deterred. It only seems to double down his resolve and take on the mighty beast of Purdue.
It is interesting and uplifting to see the path that Dan and his family took during the run time of the documentary series. Though it does start off with a rather bleak event, it then moves forward into inspiration and lethargic resolution as the crusade he sets out on eventually leads to the take down of a major player in the pharmaceutical game. Worth watching and highly recommended.