Movie review: An expose on big pharmaceuticals

Dana Barbuto More Content Now
Mike Bell, Rosemary Bell, Mark "Smelly" Bell, and Chris Bell in PRESCRIPTION THUGS

Photo Credit - Samuel Goldwyn Films

Prescription drugs kill more people annually than car accidents. That’s one of the eye-opening facts documentarian Chris Bell reveals in “Prescription Thugs,” his expose on big pharma, its marketing practices and the submissive society that lets it all happen. You’ll be hooked from the get-go. But like that elusive high, you’re left wanting more. 

It’s Bell’s contention that America’s drug problem starts in the doctor’s office.  Be it a mood stabilizer, cholesterol reducer or painkiller, there’s a tablet to remedy every malady. We are a nation of pill poppers on a quest for the latest panacea.  What’s more, there are too many docs eager to write off patients with prescriptions. After all, pills equal profits. 

As he did in his terrific “Bigger Stronger Faster,” Bell takes a page from Michael Moore’s playbook, inserting himself into the film. He finds fascinating subjects to interview, including his parents and late brother, Mike “Mad Dog” Bell, a professional wrestler battling an opioid addiction that ultimately took his life. 

Another wrestler, Matt “Horshu” Wiese, admits to swallowing 90 pills a day.  Former NFL player Jeff Hatch confesses to being so high on painkillers that he’d wake up in a puddle of his own urine. Minnesota housewife Betsey Degree stole Adderall from her daughter.  

Former pharmaceutical rep Gwen Olsen reveals the lies that many companies spend millions telling in order to make us believe. 

The film takes a more intimate turn when Bell becomes one of the featured players after revealing he’s not only exposing the wrongdoing of big pharma, but he’s also a client. He became addicted to Percocet after a double hip replacement. You wish Bell would go deeper down the rabbit hole in telling his own story. 

There’s not a lot of new information here, but Bell makes the opioid epidemic personal, telling his family’s struggle. “We were the all-American family. How could it go wrong?” He asks, but the answer is as fleeting as an addict’s next score.  

Dana Barbuto may be reached at or follow her on Twitter @dbarbuto_Ledger.

Movie review


A documentary by Chris Bell.

(Not rated)

Grade: B.