IMDb rating: 8/10
Rotten Tomatoes rating: 100%
This four-part limited series introduces us to Dan Schneider, a pharmacist in a middle-class suburb of New Orleans. In 1999, his son Danny was found shot to death in his pick-up truck in the 9th Ward, a down-at-heel area notorious for its drug-related crime.
At the time, the police brushed off Dan and his wife Annie’s questions about who killed Danny, and why. It was a textbook drug-deal-gone-bad situation, they said – a white kid coming from the nearby St Bernard Parish to buy drugs in the 9th Ward, and then not paying the dealer, or not paying the dealer enough, and then getting himself killed.
But that wasn’t good enough for Dan. His son’s killer was still out on the streets somewhere, so he and his family offered a reward for any information about the murder.
At the same time, Dan had noticed teenagers coming into his pharmacy with scripts for large amounts of OxyContin, an opioid pain killer that was known as smack or heroin in pill form. The kids were too young to be taking that much of the drug, he thought, and clearly not in enough pain to warrant them. And the scripts were all coming from one specific doctor.
Could this huge rise in opioid prescriptions being handed out to teenagers have any connection to Danny’s death?
Just as Dan’s hope is about to be extinguished, he gets a miraculous lead. And there starts his lonely investigation into the opioid addiction crisis that will see him coming up against corrupt cops, doctors and bureaucrats and all the evils of Big Pharma.
But Dan is no ordinary pharmacist, or ordinary father. He has kept meticulous records throughout his adult life – audio tapes of phone calls and even of conversations he’s had with family members in his own home; extensive home movies; and reams and reams of journal entries and notes about everything, including each step of his own relentless investigation. And this is what makes this docuseries so fascinating.
The Guardian says, “Schneider has an attribute even the best sources don’t usually offer: he has recorded, on film or audio cassette, everything he has been through, meaning The Pharmacist has a vivid immediacy most documentaries can’t achieve.” It goes on to say, “The Pharmacist raises an impeccably important global issue, but its power as television all comes from one individual.”