New Documentary 'American Pain' Details Largest Prescription Drug Trafficking Case in American History

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The film traces the rise and fall of identical twin brothers Chris and Jeff George, who trafficked more than $500 million in opioid pills from their clinics.

Opioid addiction takes a toll on its users, explains Whitney Summitt, a patient with opioid use disorder (OUD) featured in the new CNN documentary American Pain. Summitt, who started taking opioids as a teen and eventually was involved in a narcotics trafficking ring in Kentucky, explains that she has been sent to prison 37 different times throughout her experience with OUD.

“I had 2 kids that were adopted while I was in federal prison,” Summit said in the film. “I got to see them one time and then they went through with the adoption.”

Showing the impact on the lives of patients with OUD, American Pain traces the story of the largest prescription drug trafficking case in American history. This case revolves around identical twin brothers Chris and Jeff George, who trafficked more than $500 million in opioid pills in the United States from their clinics, called American Pain, in Florida. The Georges, who were previously sent to prison for battery and assault of a police officer, as well as other crimes, were able to create one of the largest opioid pill mill empires in the country. The nature of their business, and the owners’ criminal pasts, spread by word of mouth, ultimately drawing patients from around the country for what would be brief appointments to see a physician and get a prescription for opioids.

Through a compilation of hundreds of hours of FBI wiretap recordings, undercover videos, and jailhouse interviews with the twins, American Pain shows the rise and fall of the Georges’ empire. Ultimately, the Georges would ruin the lives of friends and family members, and their actions were alleged to have contributed to the deaths of approximately 3000 patients who visited their clinics.

When faced with the news of one American Pain patient’s death in a car accident, which featured images of American Pain clinic pill bottles in the car, the Georges remained indifferent. They remained steadfast: Their patients’ deaths are not on their hands.

“I definitely wish people didn’t die from the medication,” Chris George explained in the film. “In the end, it’s their responsibility. Their responsible for themselves. I’m not.”

However, the director, Emmy® Award-winner Darren Foster, helped to shed light on the reality of the case: The scope of the American Pain clinics spread out much further than just Chris and Jeff George.

“The industry, the doctors, the drug stores, and me—we were all drug dealers. Everybody knew what the other one was doing. If you didn’t, you were stupid—I mean, look at the people who owned the clinics,” Teresa Sandlin, patient at American Pain with OUD who ran a narcotics trafficking ring in Kentucky with friends and family, said in the film. “The manufacturer was making billions of pills. You think they didn’t know?”

In order for the American Pain clinics to have operated successfully for as many years as they did, multiple stakeholders were involved—even by knowing what the pill mills were doing and remaining silent, according to the film.

“The doctors turned a blind eye, the owners turned a blind eye, the pharmacists turned a blind eye, the distributors turned a blind eye, and everyone just lined their pockets full of money,” said Zack Rose, co-owner of Jacksonville Pain, a pill mill competitor of American Pain.

Derik Nolan, a friend of Chris and Jeff George who worked at the American Pain clinics and managed operations for many years, explained that although those involved deserved to go to prison—himself included—there were much larger players impacting the opioid epidemic and its continued scourge across the country outside of their clinics.

“Don’t get me wrong—they should’ve come after us. But they didn’t want to go after big pharmacy, they didn’t want to have to go after the drug distributors. They just wanted us—we’re nobody. The money we made is peanuts compared to what big pharma has made over the years,” said Derik Nolan in the film. “They’ve ruined people’s lives.”

The Georges were convicted of their crimes in 2010. Chris George pled out to one count of racketeering conspiracy and was sentenced to 17 and a half years in federal prison. He ended up serving 11 years in total and has been released.

Jeff George pled out to racketeering conspiracy and was sentenced to 15 and a half years in federal prison; however, Jeff George was also convicted of murder of a patient who died of an overdose. For the murder charge alone, Jeff George was sentenced to 20 years. He remains in prison.

American Pain premieres on CNN on Sunday, February 5, 2023 at 9 pm ET/PT.

Reference

American Pain [Film]. CNN; February 5, 2023. Accessed February 3, 2023.

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