Liza Drake In ‘Pain Hustlers,’ Explained: Who Is Liza In Real Life?

The opioid crisis in America, caused by greedy and selfish pharmaceuticals, is now the focus of several Netflix series and films. After the success of Painkiller, which highlighted the rise and fall of Purdue Pharma, David Yates’ direction has brought forth a semi-fictional story of a pharmaceutical company that spreads a fentanyl addiction among people in the name of treating cancer. Pain Hustlers revolves around Liza Drake, a woman who is desperately looking for any means to earn a reputation, respect, and money in the sales world. Her character amazes us, defined by her distinctive attitude, composed demeanor, and optimistic outlook on life. Let’s dive into her character journey to know her better.

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Spoilers Ahead


Who Was Liza Drake? What Happened To Her?

Liza Drake is the heart and soul of Pain Hustlers. She was not someone who had been raised with all the privileges. She and her mother lived at her sister’s place. While her mother had always been busy making skincare products, her sister taunted her for being a burden on her shoulders. One day, tired of all this, Liza left her sister’s house and moved into a motel with her daughter, Phoebe. From the very beginning, Liza’s family seemed to be dysfunctional. Even though Liza was friendly with her own daughter, she failed to provide her with the best education or care due to Phoebe’s mischievousness in school. But still, we didn’t see Liza judging her child or trying to scold her. This reflected her patience and love for her daughter and her own upbringing, suggesting that her mother had raised her in the same way.

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Liza was a pub dancer in her initial life, but she never seemed to be comfortable wearing those revealing dresses or seducing men. She was always looking for opportunities to transition to a different career. One day her fate brought her to meet with Pete Brenner, the sales manager of a failing pharmaceutical company, Zanna Therapeutics. Pete and Liza’s friendship flourished, and next, she managed to get a job at the pharma company by faking her resume. Even though Liza had no experience as a saleswoman, she knew what the most important thing about selling medicines was. Over time, she realized that seduction traps and money could buy as many doctors as she wanted to write prescriptions for their drugs, but the competition was high as well.

Liza initiated a “speaker program” event for the doctors involving paying them bribe money for writing prescriptions and inviting them to trips, parties, and all. Liza’s desperation to earn more money escalated when her daughter developed a tumor in her brain. But even in the face of a crisis, she never gave up on her ambition, hoping to make her life count by any means necessary. Eventually, Liza’s scheme worked like a charm, causing many oncologists to fall for this trap and write prescriptions for Lonafin (a medicinal spray containing a high dosage of fentanyl) for all of their cancer patients. Liza and Pete began to hire more of these attractive salesgirls who didn’t have any experience in the field other than their persuasion skills. Liza even hired her mother to make her self-sufficient.

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However, the situation escalated to the point where Zanna became richer and greedier at the same time. The founder of Zanna, Jack Neel, came up with the idea that not only cancer patients but patients with any kind of pain should be prescribed the drug. Even though Liza, with the slightest knowledge of medicines, knew that it was unethical for medical personnel to prescribe a drug off-label, she was compelled by the situation to carry out the job she had been doing in this company. But after a certain point, when she came to learn that the people she knew were getting affected by the drug and dying of overdoses, she felt that she needed to take a stand against it. She met the lawyers and tried to look for a piece of evidence against Jack Neel so that the pharmaceutical company could finally stop killing people for money and reputation. In the meantime, her mother, who embarrassed her daughter by sleeping with Jack Neel at a party, actually helped her out. As Jack Neel denied all the claims of his involvement in the bribe money given to the doctors, Liza needed to get her hands on a shred of evidence to prove that he was lying. She finally came across the emails that her mother had sent to Neel regarding the bribe money, which became staggering evidence to sue Jack Neel. The whole Zanna Therapeutic team was sued, including Jack Neel, Pete, and another associate, Eric Paley. They were given long prison sentences, which ultimately put an end to their arbitrary endeavor with human lives.

Liza Drake was a calm individual with patience and resilience. She might have tried to stand on her own two feet by taking some wrong path at the beginning of her career, but her strong morale and conscience restrained her from taking further steps towards this darkness. When people started dying out of overprescription of the drugs, Liza started blaming herself for this. She couldn’t take the fact that her next-door neighbor, Sidney, fell victim to Lonafin, causing his death. Liza believed so many people’s blood was on her hands, which ultimately caused her to put a stop to this illicit activity. She presented herself in court and apologized to everyone she believed she had done wrong. Even her lawyer recommended no prison sentence to the judge, but law and order didn’t consider Liza to be completely innocent. She was given a sentence of one year and three months, but in the eyes of people, she became a hero for helping the authorities put the real criminals behind bars.

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Who Is Liza Drake In Real Life?

Pain Hustlers is not entirely a true story, and these characters don’t actually exist in real life. But the film takes inspiration from the 2016 incident at Insys Therapeutics, founded by John Kapoor, who was arrested for bribing medical personnel for prescribing the drug “subsys,” which contains an addictive dose of fentanyl. There was no history of any Liza Drake in real life, but in Yates’ film, we saw an amalgamation of various whistleblowers in Liza who stepped forward to stand against corruption. Liza Drake, who never abandoned her own dreams and desires, saw her mother’s ambitions and validated them as well. After her mother was fired from Zanna, Liza was heartbroken. She was the one who made her sign her resignation paper; therefore, she felt a pang of guilt for her action. In order to rectify her mistakes, she stood by her mother’s side, aiming to make her dreams come true. Following her release from prison, we saw Liza and her mother come up with their own skincare brand and hire those former employees of Zanna to sell their products. Liza became free from the darkness of hubris and moved on from the feeling of guilt. She never gave up on herself and ultimately made her life count, as she had promised herself.


Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda
Poulami Nanda hails from a medical background, yet her journey is to cross the boundaries of medicine and survive in the cinematic world. The surrealistic beauty of cinema and art has attracted her from a very young age. She loves to write poems, songs, and stories, but her dream is to write films someday. She has also worked as a painter, but nothing attracts her more than cinema. Through her writings, she wants to explore the world of cinema more and more and take her readers on the same ride.

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