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A Father's Journey in Memory of His Son – 'The Pharmacist'
February 5, 2020  | By David Hinckley

Dan Schneider's story was never going to have a happy ending. His son Danny had been murdered on a late-night run to buy drugs, and that was never going to change.

But Dan was convinced he could give happier endings to other parents and other children. That quest becomes the subject of the troubling yet oddly reassuring new docuseries, The Pharmacist, which rolls out Wednesday on Netflix.

It's a true-crime story in a much different sense than the action-packed crime dramas, fictional and factual, that have turned into a staple of contemporary television programming.

While Danny Schneider's life ended in a violent moment in an often-violent and lawless culture, it isn't street warriors with illegal handguns that Dan Schneider is going after.

The Pharmacist is about tackling perpetrators in well-pressed suits who hold respectable and respected positions.

Dan Schneider is going after the high-end white collar part of the drug industry, a target more elusive and far better insulated than the kid selling pills on the corner.

Schneider's primary weapon often seems to be persistence, which makes him admirable from the start. What gives it greater immediate resonance is that in the two decades since Schneider's story began, America has fallen into an opioid epidemic, taking and ruining thousands of lives every year.

As a professional pharmacist himself, Dan Schneider doesn't condemn the medical or pharmaceutical industry for developing medicines that help cure maladies or alleviate suffering.

But when people and companies in the industry over-promote, over-push and over-prescribe those products, Schneider says, they become "white-collar murderers."

Schneider isn't thundering these words from a soapbox on a busy street in Berkeley. He's from the small town of Poydras, La., and he sounds like it, speaking in a soft voice with a slight native drawl. His interactions with the people he encounters in his quest are consistently polite.

But if he doesn't like what he hears, he moves forward anyhow.

In a methodical, low-key way, The Pharmacist takes Schneider and his wife back to their days as a young married couple with two children.

Their boy, Danny, was the classic "good kid" who hit some struggles toward the end of high school but seemed to be trying hard to figure out his life. He and his Dad did projects together like stripping down and rebuilding a classic Mustang.

Then one night, around 2 a.m., the police knocked on the Schneiders' door with the bad news, and everything changed.

The police soon became the first officials who were not as helpful as Dan Schneider would have liked. They treated the case as a throwaway, another suburban kid who was over his head in the drug world and became, in effect, a casualty of his own stupidity.

Dan ended up having to investigate the case largely on his own, in a world with which he was unfamiliar, and The Pharmacist does a good job of framing the Lower Ninth Ward area of New Orleans where Danny died.

The real heart of the investigation, however, takes Dan Schneider to even more resistant territory – the professional and corporate worlds from whence the drugs emanate.

The Pharmacist doesn't play like a classic television perp hunt. It has the same goal: to hold the bad guys accountable and to get them off the street. In the process, it reminds us that good guys can come in all shapes and sizes.

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