Painkiller: Is Edie Flowers Based on an Actual Federal Investigator?

Image Credit: Keri Anderson/Netflix

With Netflix’s ‘Painkiller’ serving as a fictionalized retelling of the horrific real-life events revolving around some origins of the opioid crisis across America, we get a limited series unlike any other. After all, it incorporates sagas of perpetrators, victims, and truth-seekers alike to shine a light on how OxyContin’s development and marketing changed the world for the worse. Amongst those to thus play a significant role here was none other than federal fraud investigator Edie Flowers — so now, if you simply wish to learn more about her, we’ve got the details for you.

Edie Flowers is a Fictional Character

Edie Flowers is a mere character made up by professional writers for the sole purpose of being the voice to tie each event together in this intense original production. The truth is she never was some actual bureaucrat with the US Attorney’s Office in Roanoke looking into medical frauds and hence eventually Oxy, nor did she once examine the people behind it. Instead, it appears as if she has just partly been derived from some of those already working in the Western District of Virginia when prosecutor John Brownlee took up his leading position in 2001.

Tyler Ritter as John Brownlee and Uzo Aduba as Edie Flowers//Image Credit: Keri Anderson/Netflix

We specify this because it has been reported that John’s office was the one to initially clue in regarding what was transpiring with Oxy, only for him to lead the fight for justice in the mid-2000s. In fact, as per Beth Macy’s 2018 book ‘Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America,’ the lawyer primarily relied upon “an eager fraud investigator” under his authority by the name of Gregg Wood for all the proper information.

That’s because “Since the [opioid] epidemic’s earliest days — long before Google Alerts — Wood had been sending out regular compilations of OxyContin-related news articles and overdose statistics via email to law enforcement agents, prosecutors, and other interested parties,” the source text reads, in part. Though as an investigator, he was tasked with merely picking through the several cases against Oxy’s developer Purdue Pharma to gather as many facts as he could before compiling them in “The Wood Reports.”

These Wood Reports, according to the text, “were coming out at a rate of four or five a week [by the mid-2000s], and one employee was assigned to do nothing but catalog documents for the investigation — all of them buttressing Brownlee’s belief that Purdue had knowingly concealed the drug’s addictiveness.” However, per Patrick Radden Keefe’s 2021 book ‘Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty,’ prosecutors Randy Ramseyer and Rick Mountcastle had already opened an inquiry against Purdue by this point.

Jamaal Grant as Shawn Flowers and Uzo Aduba as Edie Flowers//Image Credit: Keri Anderson/Netflix

The good thing is that since these two were under John’s jurisdiction and just working out of a field office in small town Abingdon, he was able to bring them in prior to combining their every finding. That’s when the legal proceedings began, where no federal investigator was at the forefront — but alas, the case ended in a misdemeanor plea that allowed Oxy to still be produced and consumed.

As for whether any aspect of Edie’s depicted personal life in the show correlated with anyone involved in this matter in the real world, if it did, it was purely coincidental since she remains a fictional character. Coming to Greg Wood, we should mention that it seems like he continues to reside in Virginia to this day, where he ostensibly prefers to lead a simple life well away from the limelight.

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