Lonafen in Pain Hustlers Is Based on a Real Drug

Lonafen in Pain Hustlers Is Based on a Real Drug

preview for Pain Hustlers | Emily Blunt + Chris Evans | Official Teaser | Netflix

Pain Hustlers is the latest piece of media to explore the greed and corruption that fueled the opioid crisis in the United States, following down-on-her-luck Liza Drake (Emily Blunt) as she takes a job at a struggling pharmaceutical company and goes on a Wolf of Wall Street-style ascent as she and sales exec Pete Brenner (Chris Evans) use an array of unscrupulous means to make money on their potent new liquid painkiller Lonafen.

As the movie goes on, with Liza and Pete recruiting doctors into their kickback scheme that incentivizes physicians to prescribe high doses of their incredibly addictive opioid, their profits continue to rise—and the human toll of Lonafen becomes increasingly clear.

Is Lonafen a real drug?

Lonafen is a fictional drug that was invented for the movie, but just like the pharma company and many of the characters in Pain Hustlers, it is based in truth.

Pain Hustlers is based on a book and New York Times exposé by Evan Hughes detailing the wrongdoing at Insys Therapeutics, a drug company founded by John Kapoor (a fictionalized avatar of whom appears in the movie played by Andy Garcia).

pain hustlers emily blunt


In real life, Insys developed a liquid fentanyl-based painkiller called Subsys as a form of treatment for cancer patients—a process mirrored in the movie. They then constructed an ethically compromised “speaker program” which bribed doctors into advocating for the drug without making clear its highly addictive properties and risks to patients, leading to it being prescribed to patients who did not really need it. This criminal conspiracy forms the narrative backbone of the movie, albeit with some of the names changed.

Kapoor and several of his co-conspirators were arrested and tried for fraud and racketeering after the dangers of Subsys were exposed and the speaker program was investigated.

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Philip Ellis

Philip Ellis is News Editor at Men’s Health, covering fitness, pop culture, sex and relationships, and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV, and he is the author of Love & Other Scams.


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