Jack Neel In ‘Pain Hustlers’: Is He Based On Real-Life John Kapoor? Where Is He Now?


Pain Hustlers, the Netflix drama, is based on a New York Times article authored by Evan Hughes, which was published in the year 2018. The article talked about how Insys Therapeutics, a company founded by Dr. John Kapoor, was responsible for the opioid crisis that had plagued the entire country. The character of Jack Neel in the film is inspired by Dr. John Kapoor, and though little details here and there have been changed about it and the makers have taken creative liberty, the crux of the matter is pretty much the same. Yes, we cannot say for sure if John Kapoor had that specific conversation or if he reacted in that particular manner, as shown in the film, but in broad strokes, the narrative does encapsulate the life of the infamous man. There were a lot of similarities in the ideologies of Dr. John Kapoor and Richard Sackler, chairman and president of Purdue Pharma, the company that created the infamous drug oxycontin. Just like the Sackler family, Dr. Kapoor knew that his drug was addictive and that it was not safe to use it on people who didn’t have an opioid tolerance. Mr. Kapoor maintained for a long time that he was a dormant investor and that he knew nothing about the day-to-day functions of the company. But obviously, it was pretty evident that it couldn’t have been true, and Dr. Kapoor was taking that stance to save himself from serving jail time. So, let’s find out what drove the intentions and motives of Dr. Kapoor, what he wanted his employers to do, and where he is as of now.

Why Did John Kapoor Create Subsys?

In Pain Hustlers as well as in real life, John Kapoor always maintained the fact that he had created the fentanyl-based drug after his wife, Editha, had passed away due to breast cancer. He said that he saw her suffering and that he wanted to do something so that others did not meet a similar fate. Even if the story had been true, the motive didn’t stay the same for long, and we saw greed overpowering everything else. Kapoor was well aware of what was happening in his company, and he was allowing it to happen. We don’t know if Kapoor’s subordinates were informing him before taking each and every step and making any kind of development, but in the film Pain Hustlers, we saw that Brenner and Liza Drake were informing him about every tactic that they were going to incorporate.

Maybe we would have still bought the entire narrative purported by him about being a dormant partner if we hadn’t seen him explicitly asking his sales representatives and managers in the film to make him more profit. Dr. Neel was told that Liza Drake had faked her qualifications in her CV, but he paid no attention to it as Liza was the golden goose, and he didn’t want to miss out on such an exceptional talent. He knew that what they had been trying to achieve for many months, Liza had done in a few days. She had convinced Dr. Lydell, and that had opened the floodgates for the pharma company. He not only overlooked the forgery that Liza and Brenner had done, but he also promoted them and made sure that they had all the luxuries in life.

Dr. Neel had no conscience at all, and he didn’t feel guilty, unlike Liza Drake, even after he came to know that people were dying due to his drugs and families were getting torn apart. But still, even after causing so much devastation and earning millions of dollars he was not satisfied. That’s why he asked Liza and Brenner (which we suppose would have happened in real life also) to persuade the doctors to go off-label and start prescribing his drug to patients who were not suffering from terminal illness. Liza, at this point in time, knew that they were not doing the right thing, but Dr. Neel was adamant, and he was not ready to take no for an answer. Seeing the film, we couldn’t really make out what drove Dr. Neel’s motivations, as he had already made a fortune; the IPO of his company (in real life, too) was the best-performing IPO that year, and taking everything into consideration, there was no urgent need to stretch the limit even more and do something illegal. But maybe greed does that to a person, and even after the founder of Zanna Therapeutics had everything, he was willing to put more lives at risk. So, summing it up, even if John Kapoor had created Subsys to relieve them of their pain, the agenda changed midway, and the only thing that mattered was to earn profit for the company.

Where Is John Kapoor Now?

Pain Hustlers tried to create the character of Jack Neel, keeping in mind the behavioral traits, demeanor, and aura of John Kapoor, and they have done a decent job of it. John had very erratic behavior, and as mentioned by Evan Hughes in his article, his employees had a hard time coping with him. Dr. Kapoor was unpredictable, and nobody knew when he might end up losing his temper or how he would react in a particular situation. He was very aggressive in his approach, and at times, he was really subtle, so much so that no one would believe that he could even raise his voice. All the charges against John were proven to be true, and he was sent to five years and six months in prison in 2020. The prosecutors were not happy with this sentence, as they were aiming for 15 years, taking into consideration the kind of crimes he had committed. It was decided that he would be given parole in 3 years if his conduct was right, but he was released a year prior to that, in August 2023, after serving only a couple of years behind bars. As of now, Dr. John Kapoor is out of prison and living as a free man.

We don’t know if Dr. John Kapoor ever analyzed his actions and realized what he had done, but after watching the film, it did seem like he was the kind of man who didn’t have any guilt or remorse for his actions that had destroyed the lives of so many people. Right now, that man is out of jail, and probably, he would be comfortably living in his posh residence in Phoenix, Arizona, and enjoying his life. He got out in just a couple of years, and we agree with the prosecutors that he shouldn’t have gotten anything less than life imprisonment. If you ask us, he was no less than a hardened criminal, but we know that the rich and powerful often find loopholes in the legal system, and every time, they get the better of everybody else.

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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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