Pain Hustlers’ Ending Explained: A Glimpse into the Corruption of ‘Big Pharma

Unveiling the dark reality behind the Opioid epidemic in America


In the gripping film “Pain Hustlers,” directed by David Yates and featuring Emily Blunt and Chris Evans, a tale of corruption, exploitation, and the far-reaching consequences of ‘Big Pharma’ unfolds. This cinematic narrative mirrors the harrowing opioid epidemic that has plagued the United States for years. With its thought-provoking ending, “Pain Hustlers” left audiences pondering whether it was a happy conclusion for the main characters or not. Here’s the comprehensive breakdown of the ending and the intricate web of deceit that led to imprisonment for Liza, Pete, and Jack.

Why Did Liza, Pete, and Jack End Up in Prison?

Liza Drake, portrayed by Emily Blunt, finds herself entangled in a web of corruption orchestrated by Zanna Pharmaceuticals. The company’s representatives, including Liza, resort to bribing doctors, whom they refer to as “prescribers,” to endorse Lonafen, a potent pain-relief medication. The twist is that Lonafen was initially intended for cancer patients enduring excruciating pain. However, due to the allure of financial incentives, doctors began prescribing Lonafen for even minor complaints like headaches. This reckless expansion of Lonafen’s use led to addiction and tragic deaths.


As the conscience of the story, Liza transforms into a whistleblower for the Florida District Attorney, exposing Zanna’s unscrupulous actions. Her accusations encompass not only Dr. Jack Nell (Andy Garcia), the mastermind behind Zanna, but also Pete Brenner (Chris Evans). Dr. Nell had taken meticulous care to avoid leaving a paper trail of his misdeeds, but Liza fortuitously stumbles upon email exchanges between Jack and her own mother, Jackie (Catherine O’Hara), which explicitly detail the doctors’ bribery scheme.

In the ensuing trial, Pete receives a 36-month prison sentence, while Jack is handed a 66-month term. Although the district attorney vouches for Liza’s crucial role in their investigations, her direct involvement in Zanna’s corruption results in a 15-month prison sentence.

Liza Drake’s Life After Prison

Upon her release, Liza is depicted as assisting her mother, Jackie, in selling skincare products alongside several former Zanna representatives. This metamorphosis can be interpreted as an allegory for a recovering addict rebuilding their life after conquering addiction. In Liza’s case, her addiction was to money, success, and greed.

Is “Pain Hustlers” Based on Real Events?

While not every detail in “Pain Hustlers” adheres to real-life events, the film’s overarching narrative is rooted in the actual story of Insys Therapeutics. The movie draws inspiration from the article “The Hard Sell: Crime and Punishment at an Opioid Startup” by Evan Hughes.

The film concludes by showcasing genuine news footage of Insys’s founder, John Kapoor (who inspired the character Dr. Jack Neel in the film), being sentenced to prison. Lonafen, the fictional drug in the movie, is a reflection of Kapoor’s real drug, Subsys, and the dark chapter of pharmaceutical history that it represents.

“Pain Hustlers” sheds light on the opioid crisis in America and serves as a stark reminder of the lasting impact of corporate greed and corruption in the healthcare industry.