Netflix’s ‘Painkiller’ takes the audience through the origins of one of the worse healthcare crises in America. Richard Sackler comes up with OxyContin to make a lot of money for his company, Purdue Pharma. From creating the drug to getting it approved, he ensures that everything goes swimmingly. However, when it comes to selling the drug to the doctors, he has to rely on a team of sales representatives to get the job done.
As an incentive, the salespeople are promised hefty bonuses and company-sponsored trips. All they have to do is make sure that the doctors prescribe more and more OxyContin to their patients. This is where people like Shannon Schaeffer and Britt Hufford come in. While Shannon becomes skeptical about Purdue and OxyContin, Britt remains focused on the job and the benefits it begets her. If you are wondering whether Britt’s character is based on a real person, here’s what you need to know about her.
Is Britt Hufford Based on a Real Person?
‘Painkiller’ tells a true story through a fictionalized lens, which means that some characters in the show are made-up. They are, however, inspired by real people, so their actions and the general arc they follow are a lot like what happened to real people. Britt Hufford’s character represents the sales representatives enticed by Purdue’s reward system and dedicatedly worked to sell as much OxyContin as possible.
While it is not confirmed whether Britt is based on a specific person, her character arc mirrors the career trajectory of a person identified only as “Sales Representative 11” (SP11), mentioned in a lawsuit against Purdue. According to the records, SP11 was one of the best-performing sales reps at Purdue and had been a “Topper’s Club” member for six consecutive years, getting more bonuses than his salary. Reportedly, in 2010, he earned $128,592 in bonus on a base salary of $110,743.
According to the lawsuit: “Sales Representative 11 called on a large number of highly problematic providers who ended up in cease calling status, criminally indicted and/or had adverse licensure action taken against them … as well as problematic pain clinics and pharmacies.” He was also ranked second among the salespeople “for redemptions of Oxycontin savings cards by patients” at Tennessee clinics. His success as a sales rep got him promoted to the marketing team in 2014.
It was also mentioned in the lawsuit that SP11 received repeated notes from providers and other sales reps about the adverse effects of OxyContin but almost never reported them to his superiors. “Purdue never disciplined Sales Representative 11 for failing to report abuse and diversion, despite ample evidence of it. Instead, they rewarded his blind eye,” the lawsuit stated.
Another report from the company’s 2001 sales data revealed: “The company charged wholesalers on average about $97 for a bottle of the 10-milligram pills, the smallest dosage, while the maximum strength, 80 milligrams, ran more than $630.” This means that the sale of a higher dosage would be more profitable to the company, and they forwarded this information to the sales reps, who discovered that they would make more money if they got their doctors to prescribe a higher dosage of OxyContin.
We see all of this happening with Britt in ‘Painkiller.’ She is one of the better-performing sales reps who enjoys a luxurious lifestyle courtesy of all the bonuses from the company. In one scene, when Shannon shares her concerns about the growing misuse of OxyContin among young people, Britt tells her to stay quiet about it and focus on her job. She deliberately hides the information instead of forwarding it to her superiors.
Later, when Shannon becomes the whistleblower, Britt gets angry at her for ruining things when it was all going great for them. She is unbothered by the allegations against the company and still believes that she is not a bad person. Considering the similarities between Britt and the real-life sales reps of Purdue, it is clear that while she might be fictional, the show’s creators have rooted her in reality.