Dr. Nathan Lydell In ‘Pain Hustlers,’ Explained: Is He Based On A Real-Life Person?


The character of Dr. Lydell in Pain Hustlers is not based on any one doctor, but he represents all those medical practitioners who sold their conscience for money to Insys Therapeutics and who prescribed opioids to patients when they didn’t need them and put their lives at risk. Imagine the plight of that patient who puts his faith in his doctor and then later realizes that he has been duped by him in the worst possible manner. We cannot even try to empathize with how distraught the families must have felt when they realized that they were not only fighting a disease but also a corrupt system that had no regard for human life. So, let’s find out what happened with Dr. Lydell, how he came on board with Zanna Therapeutics, and whether he faced the consequences of his actions.

Spoiler Alert

Why did Dr. Lydell start Prescribing Lonafen?

Nathan Lydell was the one medical practitioner in the area who Zanna Therapeutics desperately wanted to come aboard. He probably had the biggest clientele, and he enjoyed that kind of authority in the area that Pete Brenner and Liza Drake knew that if he started prescribing their drug, then it would open the entire market for them. But Lydell was already in a contract with another pharmaceutical company, and he wasn’t in the mood to even entertain anybody else. Liza tried approaching the doctor, but she knew that he was not going to get convinced so easily and that she needed to do something totally out of the box to get his attention and make him start prescribing Lonafen to his patients. One day, Liza went to his clinic, and she saw him having a conversation with a patient.

The patient was suffering from cancer, and he was telling Dr. Lydell that the painkiller he had given him was not effective anymore. He said that he was in excruciating pain and that he needed the doctor to do something about it. Liza overheard this conversation, and just out of curiosity, she told Dr. Lydell, in person, that she didn’t understand why he wasn’t prescribing Lonafen when he knew that, firstly, it kicks in faster and secondly, it was more potent as compared to the one he was giving the patient. The patient’s wife overheard this conversation, and she asked Lydell what Liza was talking about. Lydell was in a fix as his patient knew that there was a drug that could ease his pain, and for some unknown reason, the doctor was not giving him that drug. Liza hadn’t planned this, and she just got lucky as she was at the right place at the right time. Dr. Lydell didn’t have any other option other than to give the patient that medicine. It was a victory for Liza, as she finally had a prescription from the most renowned doctor in the area. Liza had made the breakthrough Brenner and Dr. Jack Neel were looking for, and they wanted to launch a speaker’s program with Lydell at the helm of affairs. They knew that it was an uphill battle, and Lydell was a hard man to convince, but that one prescription gave them a sort of opening, and now, at least, Lydell was open to hearing their proposition.

How did Liza Convince Lydell to Prescribe Lonafen?

Things changed drastically for Zanna Therapeutics as Pain Hustlers once Lydell joined their team. It was a bumpy start for Brenner and Liza, as the first speaker’s program that they had planned was a complete disaster, but Liza knew how to improvise and how to seize the opportunity. She had that sought-after convincing power, and we saw that she used it to stop Lydell from leaving the scene after he got disappointed when he saw only two doctors sitting during the speaker’s program. Liza told Lydell to be patient and have faith in her, as she knew that she was going to create a hole in the market. Zanna Therapeutics made a steady start, but soon, they had each and every doctor on their payroll, and Lydell played a huge role in it. Soon, doctors were prescribing Lonafen to every patient who was suffering from a terminal illness and was in pain.

But a time came for Pain Hustlers when Dr. Neel wanted to go even bigger, and he was no longer satisfied with just owning a small portion of the “pain market.” He now wanted the doctors to prescribe Lonafen for every sort of pain, even to patients who were not suffering from terminal illnesses. He didn’t care if it was merely migraine or pain from chemotherapy, and he made it very clear to Liza and Brenner that real profits would only be made when the doctors go off-label. Liza told Dr. Neel that, firstly, it was not the right thing to do, and secondly, it would be an extremely hard sell as she would literally have to convince doctors to do something illegal. Liza went to give the news to Dr. Lydell, and she told him in advance that she wouldn’t say anything if he objected to the idea, as she herself was not in favor of it. But surprisingly, Lydell didn’t need any sort of convincing, and he instantly quoted an amount that he expected from the company for every off-label prescription he wrote.

Hundreds died, and many became addicted to the drug. The worst part was that it was not an accident but a carefully orchestrated strategy. We realized in that moment in Pain Hustlers that Lydell didn’t have a conscience, and he was a greedy man who was ready to stoop to any low to earn money. He was delusional enough to think that his “karma” wouldn’t catch up to him, and he kept risking the lives of the patients without even batting an eye. At the end of the Pain Hustlers, the authorities did catch him, obviously, as was expected, but the damage had already been done. A drug had already been prescribed to hundreds of people who, firstly, didn’t need it and, secondly, weren’t aware of how addictive it was or how the company had presented falsified test reports to get clearance from the FDA. Dr. Nathan Lydell was taken into custody by the law enforcement authorities, and the court did find him guilty of the charges.

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Sushrut Gopesh
Sushrut Gopesh
I came to Mumbai to bring characters to life. I like to dwell in the cinematic world and ponder over philosophical thoughts. I believe in the kind of cinema that not necessarily makes you laugh or cry but moves something inside you.

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