The events depicted in Pain Hustlers, which is loosely inspired by the Insys Therapeutics scandal, all revolve around the character Liza Drake, who is also based on reality. Played by Emily Blunt, Liza takes center stage and proves to be a key character in the fall of Zanna, the movie’s fictional pharmaceutical company. Pain Hustlers takes some creative liberties with the true story, with several details modified. Because of the differences between the real events and those portrayed in the movie, there are a lot of questions regarding Liza’s identity, whether she is inspired by a real person, and what impact she actually had in real life.

The cast of Pain Hustlers also includes Chris Evans, Andy Garcia, and Catherine O’Hara, but it primarily follows Emily Blunt’s Liza Drake, a single mother who becomes a morally dubious rep for a bankrupt pharmaceutical company and finds herself in a dangerous criminal conspiracy linked to the American opioid crisis. The inspiration for the film comes from a 2022 book called The Hard Sell: Crime and Punishment at an Opioid Start-Up by Evan Hughes. Despite the several changes to that true story in Pain Hustlers, however, the movie did in fact take inspiration for the Liza Drake character from real people.

While Pain Hustlers‘ Dr. Jack Neel is based on Insys Therapeutics CEO John Kapoor, and Pete Brenner drew inspiration from former Insys VP of Sales Alec Burlakoff, Liza Drake is not a real person, nor is she based on a single figure in the story. She was instead likely inspired by a line in Evan Hughes’s report that said Insys workers hired “a former exotic dancer.” However, Liza Drake is a composite character based on several real-life pharmaceutical reps, including Maria Guzman and Sunrise Lee, who had a lot to do with how the events unfolded.

Emily Blunt’s Pain Hustlers character is meant to serve as an amalgamation of the pharmaceutical reps who would go to extreme lengths to achieve success during the opioid crisis. She is also meant to serve as a representation of the innocent people who get swept up in the pharmaceutical world. Adding a fictional character like Liza Drake is not surprising, given that the film took a lot of creative liberties in order to entertain and intrigue its audience while keeping a loose inspiration from the true story.

In Pain Hustlers, the whistleblower is Liza Drake, but the real person who helped take down Insys Therapeutics was Maria Guzman. Since the movie takes loose inspiration from real events and mirrors what happened in the Insys scandal, Liza Drake takes on a similar role to Maria Guzman, who was a sales rep for the company. Guzman became the first whistleblower in the Insys story and worked with the feds in order to expose the pharmaceutical company as, in 2013, she filed a lawsuit that inspired a serious investigation into the company’s activities.

In the movie, Liza questions what Zanna is doing but goes through with it so that Dr. Neel will give her the money for her daughter’s surgery. Because of her involvement in Zanna’s criminal activities, she is sentenced to 15 months in jail. In reality, Insys fired Maria Guzman after she objected to the company’s bribes and refused to use those tactics herself, so she wasn’t even charged. In 2019, Guzman was named Whistleblower of the Year by Taxpayers Against Fraud, a nonprofit organization. At the end of Pain Hustlers, Liza does her time and ends up selling Jackie’s skin care products alongside other former Zanna reps.

Given that Liza Drake is not a real person, neither is her daughter, Phoebe. In Pain Hustlers, Liza is a single mother struggling to make ends meet. Despite her high-paying job at Zanna, she doesn’t make enough to cover the surgery needed for Phoebe’s serious medical condition, and that plot point is vital to the movie and its outcome while also highlighting a real problem in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *