In “Pain Hustlers,” a Netflix series, the employees of Zanna Therapeutics are driven by greed to sell a medicine called Lonafen, even if they are not breaking the law. Even though Emily Blunt’s Liza Drake is the primary character in the plot, things don’t really get started until Pete Brenner invites her on board. Brenner is primarily concerned with moving up the corporate ladder and accumulating as much money as possible, just like the majority of others around him.
He dedicates himself to doing all it takes to make sure that Lonafen sells as much as possible because he knows that he can only achieve this if his firm is profitable. Viewers may be disgusted by Brenner’s avarice, but it also serves as a mirror for them, making them consider what they would do if they were in his position. This is all there is to know about the man who filled Brenner’s shoes.
Pete Brenner is Loosely Based on Insys Therapeutics’ Former VP of Sales
The article of the same name by Evan Hughes, which highlights Alec Burlakoff and his role in the expansion of Insys Therapeutics and the sale of Subsys, serves as the basis for “Pain Hustlers.” Burlakoff was well-known for being both charming and cunning in his pursuit of his objectives, most of which centred on persuading doctors to sign on to a profitable arrangement that would benefit both parties. He was extremely skilled in his position as head of sales because of his reputation for being able to conduct a conversation and turn it to his advantage.
Burlakoff began his career in sales at Eli Lilly, a pharmaceutical business, where he was responsible for selling Prozac and other drugs. He was named “Rookie of the Year,” but when the firm sacked him in 2002, he was later involved in a lawsuit. He was being investigated for mailing patients uninvited medications. Burlakoff countered that the management had sanctioned the practise. After the matter was ultimately resolved, Burlakoff was able to secure a position at Johnson & Johnson and then Cephalon, where he spent a year selling Actiq and Fentora prior to joining the Insys team.
Burlakoff gained notoriety at Insys fast and was promoted repeatedly. He began his career as the Southeast region’s head of sales and quickly advanced to the position of senior vice president of sales. His accomplishments weren’t achieved without effort. According to reports, Insys’s fortunes changed following his arrival, since the company experienced low sales for Subsys in the initial months after its launch. Burlakoff is said to have devised the “speakers programme” and the scheme to pay physicians to write more prescriptions for Subsys to their patients.
Pete Brenner performs a nearly identical function in “Pain Hustlers” when it comes to Lonafen sales and helping Zanna get back on her feet. The character’s name has been changed by the producers because several parts of the narrative don’t match Burlakoff’s real life. Choosing a fictitious name for the character permits the directors to maintain room for theatrical embellishments and a slight deviation into fiction. It is safe to conclude that Brenner’s character is inspired by Burlakoff.
Alec Burlakoff Has Turned His Life Around
When everything at Insys collapsed, Alec Burlakoff found himself at the centre of it all. He entered a guilty plea to one count of racketeering conspiracy and was sentenced to 26 months in federal prison for his cooperation with the investigators. He now works as a coach, author, public speaker, and sales trainer. He resides in Florida’s Palm Beach Gardens. In 2022, he served as a project consultant for Netflix, most likely on the show “Pain Hustlers.”
Speaking about his tenure at Insys, Burlakoff acknowledged that he neglected to consider the patients’ needs and the addictions that Subsys misuse was causing. He disclosed that he targeted physicians other than oncologists in order to market Subsys, saying, “I imagined that I was selling a widget.” He declared that they needed to be “ruthless” in their pursuit of victims, particularly those who were in need.
Burlakoff disclosed that he joined the pharmaceutical sales force in spite of his family’s displeasure, stating that his goal was to match his father and brother’s income. He entered the pharmaceutical industry with the hope of being able to assist others, but he soon realised that it was a competitive area where he would have to go above and beyond to complete tasks. He would provide the sales representatives instructions on the kind of doctors to approach and strategies to use in order to seal the deal. “At Insys Therapeutics, I can assure you that my directive would be to refrain from using this medication on an analytical physician,” he stated.
Even though it advanced his career and brought him a lot of money, he did “lose a piece of his soul every day” from it. He acknowledges that even though his employment was compromising his principles, his avarice and admiration for those in positions of authority kept him there instead of leaving. He had rationalised his behaviour and thought he had done nothing wrong, but eventually he had to face the reality and his role in the whole situation.