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Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty

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The highly anticipated portrait of three generations of the Sackler family, by the prize-winning, bestselling author of Say Nothing. The Sackler name adorns the walls of many storied institutions: Harvard, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oxford, the Louvre. They are one of the richest families in the world, known for their lavish donations to the arts and sciences. The sou The highly anticipated portrait of three generations of the Sackler family, by the prize-winning, bestselling author of Say Nothing. The Sackler name adorns the walls of many storied institutions: Harvard, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oxford, the Louvre. They are one of the richest families in the world, known for their lavish donations to the arts and sciences. The source of the family fortune was vague, however, until it emerged that the Sacklers were responsible for making and marketing OxyContin, a blockbuster painkiller that was a catalyst for the opioid crisis. Empire of Pain is a masterpiece of narrative reporting and writing, exhaustively documented and ferociously compelling.


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The highly anticipated portrait of three generations of the Sackler family, by the prize-winning, bestselling author of Say Nothing. The Sackler name adorns the walls of many storied institutions: Harvard, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oxford, the Louvre. They are one of the richest families in the world, known for their lavish donations to the arts and sciences. The sou The highly anticipated portrait of three generations of the Sackler family, by the prize-winning, bestselling author of Say Nothing. The Sackler name adorns the walls of many storied institutions: Harvard, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oxford, the Louvre. They are one of the richest families in the world, known for their lavish donations to the arts and sciences. The source of the family fortune was vague, however, until it emerged that the Sacklers were responsible for making and marketing OxyContin, a blockbuster painkiller that was a catalyst for the opioid crisis. Empire of Pain is a masterpiece of narrative reporting and writing, exhaustively documented and ferociously compelling.

30 review for Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty

  1. 5 out of 5

    Michael Perkins

    The article that the book expanded from. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20... BTW, I noticed a tactic in the ratings for this book below that I usually see Christian fundamentalists use. They "join" GR for a day in order to give low ratings to books they don't like, without reading them. There seem to be some Sackler apologists here who have done the same. New documentary.... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkU75... The article that the book expanded from. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20... BTW, I noticed a tactic in the ratings for this book below that I usually see Christian fundamentalists use. They "join" GR for a day in order to give low ratings to books they don't like, without reading them. There seem to be some Sackler apologists here who have done the same. New documentary.... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkU75...

  2. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Hunt

    After reading "Say Nothing", which is the best non-fiction book I've ever read, I figured I would read whatever Keefe wrote next, good choice. It honestly took me a little longer to finish this because at times you'll read something that these malicious tone-deaf fucks have done to the general public that you become so furious you have to go do something else for a while. The thesis of this book is that one family had a guiding hand in the opioid epidemic, which it did, and that they (the family After reading "Say Nothing", which is the best non-fiction book I've ever read, I figured I would read whatever Keefe wrote next, good choice. It honestly took me a little longer to finish this because at times you'll read something that these malicious tone-deaf fucks have done to the general public that you become so furious you have to go do something else for a while. The thesis of this book is that one family had a guiding hand in the opioid epidemic, which it did, and that they (the family) profitied immensely from this and didn't really care what happened to anyone else. There's some major succession vibes in here, except that you know, there's no likable characters and these are real people flying to private islands in the Turks. Great book about generally terrible and dispicable people. Also a great PS here, Trump tried to help them all out. Because of fucking course he did.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Brendan Monroe

    In "Say Nothing," Patrick Radden Keefe's look into that period of bitter conflict in Northern Ireland from 1968-1998 known today as The Troubles, it's hard to say that any of the major players were truly "evil." Instead, you come away feeling that everyone involved was culpable to some degree. In "Empire of Pain," by contrast, evil exists and it has a name — Sackler. You may already know of the Sackler family, who Forbes estimated in December 2020 to have a net worth of $10.8 billion — likely an In "Say Nothing," Patrick Radden Keefe's look into that period of bitter conflict in Northern Ireland from 1968-1998 known today as The Troubles, it's hard to say that any of the major players were truly "evil." Instead, you come away feeling that everyone involved was culpable to some degree. In "Empire of Pain," by contrast, evil exists and it has a name — Sackler. You may already know of the Sackler family, who Forbes estimated in December 2020 to have a net worth of $10.8 billion — likely an underestimate, as the family almost certainly has unreported income stashed in offshore accounts. John Oliver did a blistering segment on the Sacklers in 2019 in his brilliant late-night show "Last Week Tonight" and his team was even responsible for putting up a website called the Sackler Gallery featuring famous actors reading unsealed documents from deposition hearings for the family because, in Oliver's words, "they love having their name on fucking galleries." Through their company, Purdue Pharma, the Sacklers are responsible for the infamous opioid OxyContin — and the hundreds of thousands of overdose deaths that have come with it. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta has rightly labeled these opioid-related deaths an "epidemic" and, in 2019, "2,600 lawsuits from 49 states and various territories of the U.S." were filed against the company. Perdue, under the express orders of the Sackler clan, marketed OxyContin as a cure-all for any sort of pain and assured doctors and patients that the addiction rate was "less than one percent." Lies. In their race to generate profits as quickly as possible, the Sacklers ignored testimonials from doctors, patients, and the company's own sales force that the drug was in fact highly addictive and causing overdose deaths. The warning signs came as early as 1997, shortly after the drug first went on the market. But the sales — and the deaths — only ramped up from there. The Sacklers? They just didn't care. When links between the rise in overdose deaths and the mass prescribing of OxyContin shed new light on the company, the Sacklers held firm — casting the blame not on the company but on "abusers." “We have to hammer on abusers in every way possible,” Richard Sackler wrote in an email in 2001, when he was president of Purdue Pharma. “They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals.” One would think that the mere knowledge that your drug is causing a huge upsurge in deaths and addiction across the country would be enough to perhaps take it off the market, or at least stop marketing it so heavily, but the Sacklers didn't think so. Instead, they doubled down on the pledge Richard Sackler had made following the release of the drug. “The launch of OxyContin tablets will be followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition. The prescription blizzard will be so deep, dense, and white." If you view your competition as human beings addicted to your product, then Richard Sackler was certainly right — it did bury them. When a federal prosecutor reported in 2001 that OxyContin had been responsible for 59 overdose deaths in just one single state, Kentucky, the Sacklers showed all the empathy expected of a family of psychopaths. “This is not too bad,” Richard Sackler wrote to company officials. “It could have been far worse.” As you can see, the Sacklers make the characters in "Succession" look like Peace Corps volunteers. And while Richard Sackler has the most disgusting quotes — his total lack of empathy is matched only by his utter naivety at the idea that his comments could ever become public — he's by no means the only bad apple on the Sackler tree. It was difficult while reading "Empire of Pain" to actually determine which family member is the worst. Madeleine Sackler makes my blood boil in a totally different way. The daughter of Jonathan Sackler, the former director of Perdue, Madeleine ostensibly has nothing to do with the family business and is instead a filmmaker who likes to tackle important topics, like mass incarceration in the American prison system. However, when confronted with questions about her family's connection to a drug that has led to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people, Madeleine has repeatedly refused to talk about it or take any responsibility at all. Yes, she's worth many millions of dollars thanks to her family's drug dealing and has built a career making "social justice" movies (oh, the irony) with that money, but no, it's not her fault ... blood money is accepted currency too. Funny how her site's about me page mentions nothing about the family business. If I've spent this entire review talking more about the Sacklers than about Patrick Radden Keefe's spectacular book about them, it's because I still haven't gotten over my outrage — outrage at how the family has largely gotten away with it and been allowed to keep their billions while families across the country are suffering the loss of loved ones due to their product. Patrick Radden Keefe has written an absolutely riveting bildungsroman here, telling the story of the family going all the way back to the arrival of Isaac Sackler, a Jewish immigrant from Galicia — now Ukraine — to the United States. The first third of the book is centered around Isaac's son, Arthur, the most driven of the three Sackler brothers. It's like "The Godfather Part II," except Robert De Niro's Vito Corleone was an eminently more honorable figure than anyone here — that whole mafia business aside. The bigger problem "Empire of Pain" exposes is that of a capitalistic society run totally amok, without any sort of meaningful regulations or consequences. Patrick Radden Keefe shows how The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was and still is in the pocket of the pharmaceutical industry, which has a history of offering kickbacks to government officials in exchange for approval. In 2020, the Trump Justice Department was even pursuing an investigation into the Sacklers but then, just weeks before the presidential election, the case was abruptly wrapped up without charges being pursued against the family. All this reportedly at the behest of an unnamed individual high up in the Trump administration. Because of course. "Empire of Pain" is the perfect companion piece to the equally bloodcurdling Romanian documentary "Collective" — nominated for Best Documentary and Best International Film at this year's Academy Awards. That film's tagline is just as apt when talking about the US government's failure to regulate and prosecute the Sacklers and companies like theirs as it is about corruption in the Romanian government: When government fails, we all pay the price.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ronnie

    Hoo Boy!.. I first heard about this book from a review in the Boston Sunday Globe a few weeks ago. As an RN I feel that this book is one of the most important occurrence to have been delivered to the reading public. Greed. Vanity.Money. Damages. Mendacity. Addictions. Drugs. People with an altered sense of a conscience. Mr Keefe has provided the reader of this book such a fabulous insight and viewpoint that at times one becomes exhausted at the breadth and depth of the behaviours of the evil cha Hoo Boy!.. I first heard about this book from a review in the Boston Sunday Globe a few weeks ago. As an RN I feel that this book is one of the most important occurrence to have been delivered to the reading public. Greed. Vanity.Money. Damages. Mendacity. Addictions. Drugs. People with an altered sense of a conscience. Mr Keefe has provided the reader of this book such a fabulous insight and viewpoint that at times one becomes exhausted at the breadth and depth of the behaviours of the evil characters. In the end he stresses that this book is non-fiction.....yet the unbelievablilty of the occurrences is mind-boggling. The Company...The Family..The FDA..The attorneys for and against. The drugs Oxycontin...MS Contin....Thorazine...Valium.....Miltown....The addicted....the street drugs...Heroin....Fentanyl...The most egregious aspect of the Sackler Family..males/females/ fathers/mothers/sons/daughter/all the relatives had and have this revolting sense of entitlement that is projected outward regardless of how their riches came from. Even when Purdue made plans to develop a drug to deal with he poisonous addiction which they promoted even if they denied this in so many areas. The one thing that the author does present is the fact that Pain Management has never been addressed by the medical community. Too late in the game were the curriculum of pain control/managment were brought into the Medical and Nursing Profession.. The absurdity of the concept of the Fifth Vital Sign as it was played out by the drug manufacturers and how they hoodwinked the providers and teachers in medicine and nursing.This is such a good book. You won't be able to put it down.He wrote this book as COVID was unleashing itself on us.So he writes in the here and now.. I was able to get this book from Leominster Public Library which I am thoroughly indebted to. Please get this book. READ IT...

  5. 5 out of 5

    Wynne Kontos

    Have you seen Anya Taylor-Joy in the THE WITCH? Perhaps you washed pan seared gnocchi down with a crisp French 75 at The Smith. Did you attend Columbia, NYU, Yale, Harvard, or Tufts? Have you been to the Egyptian room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art? What about an exhibit by a woman artist at the Brooklyn Museum? Ever been to the Tate Modern in London? What about the Dia Art Foundation? The National History Museum? Have you ever taken Senokot for constipation? Do you know a Vietnam war veteran Have you seen Anya Taylor-Joy in the THE WITCH? Perhaps you washed pan seared gnocchi down with a crisp French 75 at The Smith. Did you attend Columbia, NYU, Yale, Harvard, or Tufts? Have you been to the Egyptian room at the Metropolitan Museum of Art? What about an exhibit by a woman artist at the Brooklyn Museum? Ever been to the Tate Modern in London? What about the Dia Art Foundation? The National History Museum? Have you ever taken Senokot for constipation? Do you know a Vietnam war veteran treated with antiseptic while serving? Have you seen the HBO original film O.G. starring Jeffery Wright? If the answer to any of the above is yes, you can thank the Sackler family. They donated too, funded or directly created all of the above experiences. If you've lived in New York City in the past thirty years, this might not be new information. But whether it's new info or another reminder, it hurts all the same. (That pan seared gnocchi hits me especially hard.) The Sacklers are a New York family who until the last 5 or so years were mostly known for their philanthropy in the arts and sciences. Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler were all medical doctors who since the 1940s worked together to create medical and advertising businesses that made them obscenely wealthy. In 1996, after careful deliberation and deviously applied tactics from the Sackler family, Purdue Pharma released an upgrade from their time release morphine pill (MS Contin) that would make the Sacklers billionaires many times over. The drug was called OxyContin. Despite egregious ethical and medical malpractice, the Sacklers continued to work for and on the board of Purdue Pharma while OxyContin sold across the US and eventually worldwide. Due to the pill's time release coating, it could not be addictive if used correctly and opiates were safe for all kinds of pain, not just end of life treatment. Even typing those statements onto the screen seems strange, since we know they're all lies. The Sackler's campaign to market and manufacture OxyContin through Purdue Pharma helped created the opiate crisis. Once in 1996 and then again in 2010, when the drug was "reformulated" in order to make it harder to abuse. Opiate users turned to heroin. In a world where the Sackler name is so tainted, when the ravages of opiate abuse are so apparent, what else could be said? It turns out a lot. In 2017, Patrick Radden Keefe wrote a startling expose on the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma for THE NEW YORKER. This emboldened the photographer Nan Goldin and her activist group, PAIN, to protest in many of the famous galleries around NYC. Not until that article was published (several books and journalism stories had been written about the Sacklers for decades with little fanfare) did the tides seem to shift for the Sacklers. What came before and after the 2017 article will blow your LID OFF. I'm serious. I've always been fascinated by addiction research and when I was still practicing as a social worker in New York would regularly attend workshops and symposiums on my own dime in order to best stay informed. (The day I found out The Smith restaurants were Sackler funded was a dark, dark day.) But even with all I thought I knew about Purdue and the Sacklers, the behavior of this family and the influence of money across literally every single entity of our lives as Americans (and quite frankly, human beings) is startling. The FDA bribery, the corruption of the court system, marketing and advertising, state and government jurisdiction, pharmacies and insurance companies. I mean to quote THE REAL WORLD, you think you know, but you have no idea. My first recollection of opiate medication came very early, when my mother was being treated for cancer. Always a calm and collected woman, when my mother drove her forest green Jetta into the seventh grade parking lot and shouted for me to hurry out of her passenger's side window, I knew something was up. At the time, my mother was taking an experimental drug that was covered on a trial type basis through her insurance. Even a single dose was thousands of dollars, and my mother took the drug several times a week (by the end of her life she'd take it several times a day.) She'd been charged full price for the drug by accident and we had only an hour or so until the insurance office closed. Needless to say, we were in a hurry. But this wasn't the first time my mother had dealt with bureaucracy in getting her medication. The first time was a couple years prior when she'd been prescribed OxyContin. The drug was so regulated by the local pharmacies, that she could only fill the prescription through one (even though for a time, my hometown boasted three drugstores all on opposite corners of one another.) We drove in literal circles while my mother called representative after representative. No one could get her the person she needed to dispense the medication. It was a new prescription, given to her by her oncologist and the oncology team she'd seen since the onset of her illness. The regulations exhausted my mother, so finally she put a call in to her oncologist and said to scrap it. This rigamarole had set off my mother's alarm bells. What medication was warranted this type of trouble? It took me until adulthood to understand why these memories stuck out for me. In each instance, my mother's temperament was changed. She was visibly frustrated and angry, confused and combatant. She was rarely these things and typically only expressed these feelings to close friends and family. Living as she had with cancer for so long, was a long line of indignities. Driving from pharmacy to pharmacy for a schedule II narcotic was just the icing on the cake. Much later, after she had died, I saw the Oxy memory in yet another light. What if my mother didn't have an oncologist she trusted? What if he had insisted she get the medication filled that day? What if he'd prescribed her an 80 milligram dose for the foreseeable future? (This was the preferred prescription sale of the Sackler family.) What if the pharmacies in my hometown weren't regulated? What if the pharmacist on call took pity on my mother and relented, filling the prescription against protocol? By then my mom was divorced from my father, parenting me as a single mother while working a rigorous full time job. She did her upmost to shield me from her illness, but terminal cancer is a hard thing to shield someone from. I didn't have much to compare it to. It was the only life I knew and sometimes, it was a hard life. But the only thing that could've been worse than terminal cancer to a 12-year-old, is having your terminally ill mother addicted to opiates. It's laughable to think of my mother as a drug addict, I'm sure anyone who knew her would say the same. But we know enough about addiction in 2021 to know that it just doesn't discriminate. According to Keefe's reporting in EMPIRE OR PAIN, patients became physically addicted to OxyContin just from taking it regularly, even if they didn't feel the mental compulsion of addiction. The entire trajectory of my life--of my mother's life--was so fragile that cloudy day in Indiana. Keefe's writing only drove that home in a profound way. The fact that Keefe can write about this type of heavy, depressing topic and keep the pace of EMPIRE OF PAIN as breakneck as he does is proof of his talent. This reads like an inverse thriller, one where you sort of know the ending but you're racing along trying to determine how it will all unfold. Sort of a MEMENTO but...narrative fiction. I was very interested in reading this, but figured it would be dense and hard to get through. On the contrary, I was able to read a lot in single sittings. The beginning of the third section does drag a bit. At that point in the narrative we've met all our players and are sort of watching all the debauchery unfold in a big, rotting mess. This is the only time where the subject matter did indeed feel heavy and a little redundant. It's all necessary, but it slows. Other than that, I was really impressed. I tend not to do well with nonfiction. But I sped through this. Aside from my own personal reflections, there's so much EMPIRE OF PAIN can teach us about confronting authority. Not just our state and local governments, but the gigantic institutions that tell us what to think and feel. Advertising agencies, museums and scholarship funds, publications and fashion and what's "cool." Not a single slice of American cultural life went untouched by the Sacklers. How rich people (mostly white men) have corrupted our system in such inexplicable ways taught me, yet again, how to be a critical consumer and reader. Nothing we do, however altruistic in its intent, can subsist without this rigorous criticism. Without this criticism is how a doctor disgusted by electroshock therapy and determined to uncover a dignified, medical cure for mental illness becomes a blood baron of prescription opiates. It's how we can discuss a book about destruction through unregulated wealth on a website owned by Am*zon. But that's for another review. It's true that none of the Sacklers were charged with any crimes. They barely have lost a dime after all of this. They're living amongst us, selling us delicious (such delicious) gnochi, they're producing films and social media apps, they're directing films and founding fashion lines. (You won't have to wonder which, Keefe names names, hallelujah hallelay!) Since Arthur Sackler died in 1987 before the on-set of Purdue Phara and its OxyContin hey-day, many of his heirs say they do not bear the responsibility of the opiate crisis. But Arthur created (literally) big pharma as we know it. Drug salesmen? Profits for selling a particular drug? Drug advertising? The mass production of Librium and Valium (another addictive drug the Sackler marketed as safe without doing any research.) That's all Arthur. His daughter, Elizabeth, a notable benefactor of the Brooklyn Museum, is a big fan of this defense. Every single member of the Sackler family, including the grandchildren, has taken Purdue Pharma money. It's on record. Madeline Sackler and her documentaries about the unjust prison system. Michael Sackler and his initiatives into safe digital media and regulation (and producing bangers like THE WITCH,) Joss Ruggles and her athleisure clothing line...all of it is Sackler blood money. The Sacklers like to live deliciously, as Satan famously said in Michael's movie. It's the rest of us who get the bitter pill.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Larry Olson

    EMPIRE OF PAIN: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe is a masterfully-researched, powerfully told indictment of a greedy family and a cast of government and legal professionals who were all complicit in the opioid crisis in the US in which over 500,000 people died. Keefe is such a great storyteller. He focuses on the family who changed the landscape of medical pharmaceutical marketing and in doing so, set the stage for the largest public health crisis preceding the p EMPIRE OF PAIN: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe is a masterfully-researched, powerfully told indictment of a greedy family and a cast of government and legal professionals who were all complicit in the opioid crisis in the US in which over 500,000 people died. Keefe is such a great storyteller. He focuses on the family who changed the landscape of medical pharmaceutical marketing and in doing so, set the stage for the largest public health crisis preceding the pandemic.   It starts as an incredible  New York story. Arthur Sackler, who grew up in Depression era Brooklyn, revolutionized medical advertising for Librium and Valium by overplaying the benefit, underplaying the risk and pitching the drug directly to the prescribers. It was his belief that if you could convince the prescriber, you could reach success. By swaying doctors to think they were being educated, they were in fact, being marketed to. And were they successful. Arthur and his brother’s Mortimer and Raymond bought Purdue Pharma in 1952. By the 1980’s, Arthur, now passed, left the two brothers and their children to develop MS-Contin, a morphine-based pill used for cancer treatment. They patented the coating they developed and created oxycodone and then oxycontin in 1996.With no studies on addictiveness, they touted the drug as “The one to start with. The one to stay with.”   Keefe goes right to the question of culpability. What did they know and when did they know it? In 1997, one year after the drug was released, the Sackler family became aware of the dangerous aspects of the drug. But the business and the family continued to defend the drug and pushed the blame on to drug users. All Sackler family members were complicit and hugely enriched by the sale of this drug. Particularly evil was the Raymond Sackler family branch and his son Richard.   Vivid, authentic, the author researched a huge amount of correspondence not only about the company business, but also about the families use of philanthropic giving as a way of deflecting their misdeeds. They donated hundreds of millions of dollars to museums and universities around the world, only to have their names finally removed from institutions years later from the Louvre, Tufts and NYU.   So who was to blame? The Sacklers. The Department of Justice, who let the company off. Members of Congress, who were bought off. The FDA, whose Chief Examiner Curtis Wright approved the drug and then was hired by Purdue Pharma for $400,000 a year. The Sacklers spent billions hiring lawyers with former government positions who knew how to beat the system which allowed their clients to kill by the thousands and destroy millions of families. The Sackler’s lead attorney was former SEC Commissioner Mary Jo White, who in addition to representing members of the Sackler family in litigation brought by victims of the opioid epidemic, was also retained by Les Wexner as a criminal defense attorney in matters to the investigation of Jeffrey Epstein. A colossal cluster-fuck of government manipulation, moral and ethical failure and greed. Pure, unadulterated greed and evil. They all knew.  But blame will do little to help those who have suffered and are still suffering from the horrors of addiction.   Keefe was wise to side-step the stories of the impact on families. It would have made the book unbearable. Their painful stories are better recounted in other narratives. In the end, the family took $10Billion out of the company which resulted in the company’s bankruptcy. The Sacklers have never been charged with criminal activity. Not the ending I was looking for, but am grateful for the investment in Keefe’s storytelling.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    Best for: Those interested in how corporations and the government have failed us. Those who enjoy a little bit of schadenfreude (though, in my opinion, not nearly enough). In a nutshell: The Sackler family, obsessed with their reputation and ‘good name,’ help 400,000 people to their deaths via the opioid epidemic. Why I chose it: I loved the author’s book ‘Say Nothing’ about The Troubles in Northern Ireland and searched for other work. Saw this was being released in April so ordered it right away. Rev Best for: Those interested in how corporations and the government have failed us. Those who enjoy a little bit of schadenfreude (though, in my opinion, not nearly enough). In a nutshell: The Sackler family, obsessed with their reputation and ‘good name,’ help 400,000 people to their deaths via the opioid epidemic. Why I chose it: I loved the author’s book ‘Say Nothing’ about The Troubles in Northern Ireland and searched for other work. Saw this was being released in April so ordered it right away. Review: What is a name, really? Is philanthropy truly a gift if it comes with so many strings, including the need to have one’s name splashed across all the things? How do we hold accountable the leaders of corporations that cause pain and suffering for millions? Author Keefe explores all these themes in his excellent book that focuses on the Sackler family, the name behind the billion-dollar pain empire via one of the ventures they chose not to put their name on, Purdue Pharma. If you’re not familiar, Purdue Pharma patented OxiContin, the extraordinarily strong opioid pain reliever introduced in the 1990s. The book opens with a deposition in the late 2010s, but immediately jumps back to the early 1900s so we can follow three generations of the Sackler family, starting with boys Arthur, Raymund, and Mortimer. Arthur took the lead as the first born to take a bunch of jobs, supporting his family. He and his brothers all went to medical school, and all married (some of them multiple times). Over time Arthur especially starts to build the empire with medical marketing, then the purchase of Purdue Frederick and Purdue Pharma. Each successive generation seems to be obsessed with putting their names on EVERYTHING. It kind of reminds me of the Trump family - there’s just this deep, almost pathological, need to piss all over the place. I don’t understand obsessions with names and legacy. Maybe it’s because I’m not having kids? To my mind, one’s legacy should be doing good things because they should be done, not because one wants credit and a fancy plaque at the entrance to a museum gallery. The Sacklers do not ever get what they deserve - though the very last chapter does have a slight sense of comeuppance. They are helped in many ways by the FDA — who should have shut down OxiContin’s claims from the start — but also by the Trump DOJ, who chose not the prosecute the individual family members in addition to the privately owned company. The family made billions off of the addiction of others, essentially creating not just the opioid epidemic but, when they changed the formulation, helping push those individuals on to heroin. They are evil. And while they do get to sleep on their giant pillows of ill-gotten money, at least one thing is now true: they have completely ruined the name they hold so dear. Museums and universities they donated to have started to strip their name from it (the Louvre, most notably, as well as medical programs at NYU and Tufts), as they don’t want to be associated with such immoral, vile individuals. But it still won’t bring back the lives lost at their hands. Keep it / Pass to a Friend / Donate it / Toss it: Pass to a Friend

  8. 5 out of 5

    Val

    This is the second book I’ve read from this writer (Say Nothing was the first), and this is another 5-star work of investigative journalism. This book will appeal to readers who enjoyed Ron Chernow’s brilliant biographies of financial giants (Rockefeller and the the Morgan family), and perhaps even more to readers who enjoyed Carreyrou’s masterful investigative journalism in the terrific book “Bad Blood.” Keefe has written a book that is both a fascinating biography of the entire Sackler family’ This is the second book I’ve read from this writer (Say Nothing was the first), and this is another 5-star work of investigative journalism. This book will appeal to readers who enjoyed Ron Chernow’s brilliant biographies of financial giants (Rockefeller and the the Morgan family), and perhaps even more to readers who enjoyed Carreyrou’s masterful investigative journalism in the terrific book “Bad Blood.” Keefe has written a book that is both a fascinating biography of the entire Sackler family’s rise to wealth and prominence and then disdain, and a hard-hitting journalistic expose of the family’s role in creating, marketing, and defending OxyContin, and looting their company Purdue Pharma to finance their personal lives throughout the national opioid epidemic. In Bad Blood, Carreyrou exposed a company that sold a fake blood testing device to medical companies, government agencies, and nationwide chain pharmacies, with no concern about what would happen to the unsuspecting medical personnel and patients who would rely on bogus blood test results. In Empire of Pain, Keefe exposes a family-owned company that developed a highly-effective product, OxyContin, and then misled doctors and pharmacists and the public about risks of developing addiction even in carefully prescribed doses. Bribing FDA officials to approve its drugs, convincing DAs and judges to change sides and work for Purdue Pharma for seven and eight-figure salaries... The corporate and family irresponsibility and casual obliviousness to the devastation OxyContin had and is still having on families and communities across the nation, as presented in Empire of Pain will astound you. If Bad Blood fired you up about corporate greed and lethal recklessness, this book will have similar effects as you read the lengths to which this family went to distance themselves from any responsibility or awareness of OxyContin and Purdue Pharma even when the family made up most of the company’s board and the family was siphoning cash by the billions into their personal accounts right up to the day the company declared bankruptcy to delay and avoid further legal actions against it. Did the company and family ever actually pay anything significant or tangible for its role in the opioid crisis? You will come to your own conclusion after the last 3 chapters. This book raises some weighty questions about the science of painkillers, corporate responsibility and transparency, the incentive-based symbiotic system of aggressive drug marketing and unchecked doctor prescriptions, personal liability and/or criminal responsibility for a company’s medicinal products, the entire court system surrounding bankruptcy and who wins and loses from it, and the revolving-door post-government employment issue where high government officials receive lucrative jobs and bonuses to leave their jobs and represent a corporation back to the government officials they once mentored and trained and led, putting pressure on their former subordinates to give the company preferential treatment in product approvals or government contracts. Keefe has delivered another powerful example of investigative journalism at its best.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jill Meyer

    The overdoses and deaths came early. Having been introduced to medical doctors in the mid to late 1990’s, the super strong pain medicine, OxyContin, quickly became the drug of choice to give those dying in great pain from cancer. But OxyContin soon led to chronic abuse among those seeking the highs of street drugs. What was OxyContin and who was behind the mounting death toll? In his new book, “Empire of Pain”, author Patrick Radden Keefe takes the reader behind the scenes to the ultra-secretive The overdoses and deaths came early. Having been introduced to medical doctors in the mid to late 1990’s, the super strong pain medicine, OxyContin, quickly became the drug of choice to give those dying in great pain from cancer. But OxyContin soon led to chronic abuse among those seeking the highs of street drugs. What was OxyContin and who was behind the mounting death toll? In his new book, “Empire of Pain”, author Patrick Radden Keefe takes the reader behind the scenes to the ultra-secretive Sackler family. When (and if) you to the Smithsonian Museum, you’ll see huge Sackler Gallery, dedicated to Asian Art. There are similar rooms filled with donations at prestigious colleges and museums, mostly in the northeast. They were gifts given by members of the Sackler family. The three brothers, Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond, were sons of a Jewish immigrant family. The brothers all became doctors and were primarily interested in psychiatry. But they ended up leaving the treatment of patients for the more lucrative business of...business. The three - but in particular, Arthur - founded drug advertising agencies, and then drug companies. They produced some good sellers, like Senokot, but hit the big time with the development of the incredibly strong pain killer, OxyContin. It was sold as specifically “non addictive”. But, it was addictive and large swathes of the United States were soon hotspots in the distribution and use of the drug. Patrick Radden Keefe looks at both the family and company behind the OxyContin debacle. He’s an excellent writer and makes the medical and business details easy to understand. There have been books about the drug, but mainly on how it’s introduction to the steel towns of Pennsylvania and the “hollers” of West Virginia and Kentucky and how it’s use has affected millions of people who became addicted to the supposedly “non addictive” drug. Keefe’s book puts it all together.

  10. 4 out of 5

    John Thrasher

    Just finished Patrick Radden Keefe's book, "The Empire Of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty." This book revolves around the creation of legacy and of markets of commerce at a staggering cost to the world. It's about exploitation on a scale that boggles the mind mixed with exploits of genius in marketing and deceit. Bruce Springsteen had a song 30 years ago with a line, "With every wish there comes a curse", that sums up one aspect of the story. Make the pain go away is the wish. Yo Just finished Patrick Radden Keefe's book, "The Empire Of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty." This book revolves around the creation of legacy and of markets of commerce at a staggering cost to the world. It's about exploitation on a scale that boggles the mind mixed with exploits of genius in marketing and deceit. Bruce Springsteen had a song 30 years ago with a line, "With every wish there comes a curse", that sums up one aspect of the story. Make the pain go away is the wish. You know the curse. Doctors are just as gullible as the common patient. The other message, which every one should truly try and grasp is this: "Philanthropy is Not charity, it's a business deal." Pure and simple. I come away from this story probably more angry at the revered institutions who take the large donations from corporate swine than ever before. It is also a hugely dispiriting look at how easily our government has come to be gamed by the same corporate crooks who pay off colleges and museums with "gifts" to buy affection, hide their money offshore and then go buy our elected and appointed government officials to become beyond the law. The law that picks on the little guys on the street selling the pills while the entity making and marketing them lives in the lap of luxury. A tremendous amount of courage and fortitude by a lot of people to try and right the ship is found in the pages. But, the end reality today is a nation addicted and addled trying to muddle through a very dark new gilded age while allowing scoundrels to game the show at an alarming cost to everyone. This ain't democracy in action, that's for sure. This is vertical marketing, distribution and sales. That seems to be the American legacy.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Koen

    F*cking rich people! Is a phrase that pops in my head more and more as i get older. The Sacklers are the epitome of that sentiment. This book is infuriating. The Sacklers are responsible for Oxycodone, the driving force behind the current opioids epidemic in the US. The marketing tactics developed by the oldest Sackler brother to get America hooked on Valium decades ago was perfected by the two younger brothers and their children to get America hooked on opioids in the form of the Oxycodone pain F*cking rich people! Is a phrase that pops in my head more and more as i get older. The Sacklers are the epitome of that sentiment. This book is infuriating. The Sacklers are responsible for Oxycodone, the driving force behind the current opioids epidemic in the US. The marketing tactics developed by the oldest Sackler brother to get America hooked on Valium decades ago was perfected by the two younger brothers and their children to get America hooked on opioids in the form of the Oxycodone painkillers. Making billions in the process. Of course, they might not be solely responsible, the FDA, the distributors, the doctors and Pill Mills bear responsibility too, but the Sacklers did everything in their power to influence legislation and prescriptions, knowing full well the addictiveness of the drugs they were pushing and taking no responsibility for an epidemic that is taking more American lives than traffic accidents. To read more about this I recommend you read Quinones' Dreamland (referenced multiple times in this book) or Macy's Dopesick. Both excellent books. Radden Keefe in this book focusses on the family behind the succes of Valium and Oxycodone, their web of businesses, their lack of ethics, their fame as philanthropists and some of the more than 2000 criminal and civil lawsuits against them and their company. Spoiler: they pretty much get away with it. As the ultra-rich always seem to do. Radden Keefe is an amazing writer, check out his previous book 'Say Nothing' as well. I could hardly put this one down, the research is mindboggling, considering the mountains of documents from all the judicial proceedings and the lengths the family went through for decades to obfuscate their interests and dealings. Full marks.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Calling all readers who loved *Bad Blood*, this is another tale of wealth steamrolling good conscience in the medical profession. This is probably also a great choice for those who liked Patrick Raden Keefe’s prior book *Say Nothing* which I have not yet read. The story of three generations of the Sackler family, the egregious conduct of Purdue pharmaceuticals, and the horrific impact of OxyContin addiction is spelled out in details that will have every reader reacting with despair. The impact o Calling all readers who loved *Bad Blood*, this is another tale of wealth steamrolling good conscience in the medical profession. This is probably also a great choice for those who liked Patrick Raden Keefe’s prior book *Say Nothing* which I have not yet read. The story of three generations of the Sackler family, the egregious conduct of Purdue pharmaceuticals, and the horrific impact of OxyContin addiction is spelled out in details that will have every reader reacting with despair. The impact of this family living in the height of luxury at the cost of other’s pain and addition is reprehensible. Is there no reckoning? There is and the author capably handles that as well. Some of the most compelling scenes in the book take place in the courtrooms where the Sacklers deftly wield their privilege and show absolutely no compassion for the suffering they introduced into communities and families. With sales reps trained to lie, doctors serving as “pain ambassadors” lending their credibility in opening new markets internationally, and a pervasive “gospel of pain management,” the company and its leadership were confident in their ability to defend against any and all challenges. Money could and would buy their protection. I highly recommend this book where facts have been vetted several times in order to protect the author and the publisher from attacks by the Sacklers and their highly compensated legal team. It’s packed with details, written in clear journalistic narrative, and organized so the reader will understand the cumulative impact of the wrongdoings and the years of denials of generations of Sacklers and Purdue Pharma.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Mimi Jones

    Another blockbuster work of investigative journalism that reads like a spellbinding novel, by the author of Say Nothing. This book chronicles three generations of the Sackler family, whose legendary philanthropy was always motivated by a drive to burnish the family reputation— every multimillion dollar gift had to be acknowledged with a prominent display of the Sackler name. But about the real source of their family billions, the prescription opioid OxyContin, which became “the taproot of Americ Another blockbuster work of investigative journalism that reads like a spellbinding novel, by the author of Say Nothing. This book chronicles three generations of the Sackler family, whose legendary philanthropy was always motivated by a drive to burnish the family reputation— every multimillion dollar gift had to be acknowledged with a prominent display of the Sackler name. But about the real source of their family billions, the prescription opioid OxyContin, which became “the taproot of America’s opioid crisis,” they were scrupulous to remain anonymous. They claimed that they played no active role in Purdue Pharma, the private family drug company that developed and marketed the pills. The felonious marketing practices that pushed doctors to presribe huge doses of the meds for even minor pain, with the result that addiction destroyed hundreds of thousands of lives, were, the Sacklers said, the work of “a few bad apples” on the sales force. In truth, as Keefe shows, those sales strategies were masterminded and micromanaged by the family themselves. The most contrition the Sacklers ever expressed was a carefully scripted legalistic “regret that their product had been associated with” so much misery and destruction. When the lawsuits began to pile up, they engineered a bankruptcy arrrangement for Purdue Pharma that shielded their vast personal OxyContin-generated fortunes. Isaac Sackler, the dynasty’s founder, always told his three sons that fortunes can be lost and made again, but a good name, once destroyed, can never be redeemed. The greed and duplicity revealed in this book should trash the Sackler name forever.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Vinay

    What a book - PRK is one of the finest writers and biographers of our generation. I liked this even more than Say Nothing and thought it was a more riveting story than Winds of Change. Part I was an engaging rags-to-riches story (honestly read like an old Jeffrey Archer novel). The details of Arthur Sackler's view of philanthropy felt new. Philanthropy really is a financial transaction and we should see it as such. I _thought_ Part II really makes you see how unscrupulous the family was, but Par What a book - PRK is one of the finest writers and biographers of our generation. I liked this even more than Say Nothing and thought it was a more riveting story than Winds of Change. Part I was an engaging rags-to-riches story (honestly read like an old Jeffrey Archer novel). The details of Arthur Sackler's view of philanthropy felt new. Philanthropy really is a financial transaction and we should see it as such. I _thought_ Part II really makes you see how unscrupulous the family was, but Part III was outrageous. Everything from a wilful disregard to what was happening on-ground to their ability to game the legal system to protect themselves (Mary Jo White! Why would you do this?!). I spent some time in school studying bankruptcies so found the last ~100 or so pages revealing about how bankruptcy law, which prizes preservation of assets and efficiency, often ignores what is "just", especially in cases where there's public interest at stake. Anyway - I was wondering what I liked about PRK's writing. I think it's that he's extremely careful while making assertions and avoids making broad generalizations without sufficient evidence. Instead, he spends so much time developing the detail and the specifics of a situation -- and this si important -- makes general observations from there. It feels much more compelling and honest. I started reading the new Walter Isaacson book right after this and felt like reading an amateur biography in comparison (he has BS lines like "She was an outsider in high school. And that's something *all* creative people share." Might be true, but come on!) Highly recommend! And hope the Sacklers get what they deserve.

  15. 4 out of 5

    CJ

    What's in a name? The author of "Say Nothing" returns with another nonfiction doorstopper, this time about the rise and fall of the Sackler family. Unlike "Say Nothing," which explored the troubled politics of Northern Ireland, "Empire of Pain" is a profoundly American tale. Keefe methodically details the Sackler family's rags-to-riches story as three brothers go from poor immigrants to heirs to a pharmaceutical fortune and benevolent philanthropists in one generation, and their subsequent downf What's in a name? The author of "Say Nothing" returns with another nonfiction doorstopper, this time about the rise and fall of the Sackler family. Unlike "Say Nothing," which explored the troubled politics of Northern Ireland, "Empire of Pain" is a profoundly American tale. Keefe methodically details the Sackler family's rags-to-riches story as three brothers go from poor immigrants to heirs to a pharmaceutical fortune and benevolent philanthropists in one generation, and their subsequent downfall over the next two generations as the creation of OxyContin in the 1990s makes them phenomenally rich and subsequently social pariahs. They may be able to hang onto much of their wealth, but their good name is gone--instead of the cultural clout it once carried, "Sackler" is now a byword for misery and death. The book is a bit of a slow burn--the entire first third takes place before OxyContin exists--but it works to shape the narrative. Once OxyContin is on the market, Keefe details with excoriating clarity how early the Sacklers knew that their product was deadly and how hard they worked to limit any regulations in the interest of making more money. In some ways, "Empire of Pain" is a look at what could have been: if the FDA and Purdue had behaved responsibly, OxyContin could have provided much-needed pain relief to scores of people. Instead, it lit the fuse for an overdose epidemic that is still continuing to get worse every single year with no end in sight. This book belongs in the historical record along with "Dreamland," "Pain Killer" and "Dopesick."

  16. 4 out of 5

    Nev

    If you want to read something to get you super pissed off at how greedy and unscrupulous some people are, then read this book. Patrick Radden Keefe details the history of the Sackler family and how their company came to create and market Oxycontin which helped kickstart the opioid crisis. Much of the book deals with how they put forward false claims about the drug, lied about the potential for abuse and when they knew about those facts, as well as their notoriety for philanthropy and how they at If you want to read something to get you super pissed off at how greedy and unscrupulous some people are, then read this book. Patrick Radden Keefe details the history of the Sackler family and how their company came to create and market Oxycontin which helped kickstart the opioid crisis. Much of the book deals with how they put forward false claims about the drug, lied about the potential for abuse and when they knew about those facts, as well as their notoriety for philanthropy and how they attempted to conceal their wrongdoings. The book is split up into three sections. The first one mainly deals with the history of the three Sackler brothers who eventually went down the road of creating and marketing drugs before Oxycontin. While there is important information there that sets up things that happen later on, there also felt like there was a lot of filler. There was too much stuff about extramarital affairs, art acquisitions, and other topics that didn’t feel super consequential. When the book was focused on Purdue Pharma, the impacts of Oxycontin, and the Sackler’s involvement in sections 2 and 3 the book really hit its stride. The book is infuriating and compulsively readable at the same time. Because this is a work of narrative nonfiction it’s easy to get sucked into it and not feel like you’re reading a textbook. Overall I think this is a great book, I just wish the first part was condensed a little bit so it didn’t drag as much.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mian

    For the first 1/4 of this book, I thought I might actually enjoy reading about this evil family in the same morbid way that I enjoy Succession and The Godfather movies. But NOPE!! These people are so horrifically evil, particularly the second generation of Sackler parasites, characters who lets be honest even Shonda Rhimes would hesitate to write because they'd be criticized as being too cartoonishly awful to be real. Making money off of human suffering is bad enough but these pieces of human ga For the first 1/4 of this book, I thought I might actually enjoy reading about this evil family in the same morbid way that I enjoy Succession and The Godfather movies. But NOPE!! These people are so horrifically evil, particularly the second generation of Sackler parasites, characters who lets be honest even Shonda Rhimes would hesitate to write because they'd be criticized as being too cartoonishly awful to be real. Making money off of human suffering is bad enough but these pieces of human garbage refuse to even consider that they share some responsibility for peddling an addictive drug to people like candy and then they have the gall to victim blame addicts for being "weak" while at the same time enriching themselves in the order of billions from the profits of all the misery they created. With all due respect, fuck the Sacklers, everyone who enabled them and all the museums, universities and institutions that still have their name on walls/buildings. Unless you wanna turn the Sacker Wing into a particularly sadistic prison for this family to rot in, I will not be paying your optional $25 admission price @ THE MET!! Fuck off. Also fuck Pfizer and J&J. Thank you Moderna for being at least not horrible enough to make it into this book!! The bar is on the floor but you cleared it.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    This book gets an enthusiastic five stars alongside five horrified face emojis. My goodness. There's a quote in the book that sums up the 19 hours of meticulous research and storytelling of the Sackler family and their role in creating Oxycontin and our nation's opioid crisis: "I am not sure that I’m aware of any family in America that’s more evil than yours." - Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN) Patrick Radden Keefe goes back to the Sackler family's beginnings as working class immigrants in NYC, and t This book gets an enthusiastic five stars alongside five horrified face emojis. My goodness. There's a quote in the book that sums up the 19 hours of meticulous research and storytelling of the Sackler family and their role in creating Oxycontin and our nation's opioid crisis: "I am not sure that I’m aware of any family in America that’s more evil than yours." - Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN) Patrick Radden Keefe goes back to the Sackler family's beginnings as working class immigrants in NYC, and traces the generations to present day, never letting them off the hook for their immoral, corrupt, conniving, narcissistic, unethical, criminal behavior. The family is the worst, but there are plenty of bad actors (the FDA, Congress, lawyers, mostly). A couple of state Attorneys General are among the few "good guys" in the book. This is one of those works of non-fiction that reads like a fast-paced thriller. I've been dying to talk about it all week, so please read this (or listen, PRK reads it himself) and let's be horrified together. Note: If you have a loved one who has been addicted to opioids this book may be tough to read. There is not nearly enough justice, but the author does a good job of highlighting some victims and activists who worked to humanize the crisis and bring light to the Sackler family's evil empire.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Daniel

    A novel-length exposé that reads more like a thriller than a tale of corporate perfidy, Empire of Pain heats the reader's blood from the very first page, and keeps it at a violent boil until the very last. Exhaustively researched and captivatingly narrated, Patrick Radden Keefe's book represents a crippling indictment, not just of the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma, but of the system – regulatory capture, mercenary attorneys and consultants, avaricious medical practitioners, and a corrupt plutocracy A novel-length exposé that reads more like a thriller than a tale of corporate perfidy, Empire of Pain heats the reader's blood from the very first page, and keeps it at a violent boil until the very last. Exhaustively researched and captivatingly narrated, Patrick Radden Keefe's book represents a crippling indictment, not just of the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma, but of the system – regulatory capture, mercenary attorneys and consultants, avaricious medical practitioners, and a corrupt plutocracy – that enabled, supported, and profited from their malfeasance. For anyone who hopes to understand the ongoing opioid crisis, or who has a broader interest in medicine, business, politics, or criminality, Empire of Pain is a must-read. Keefe's book will make readers angry. It will make them sad. It will make them feel hopeless. But it is precisely this type of reporting that may enable us, in the years to come, to preemptively identify the future Sacklers of the world. Perhaps then, to borrow one of Keefe's analogies, we will be able to contain a future crisis within the Pandora's Box from which the opioid crisis, fueled by the Sacklers' greed and immorality, emerged.

  20. 5 out of 5

    lindsay

    This book is a long slog with a pointed view that the Sacklers, Purdue pharma, and OxyContin are all evil — but most especially every single member of the Sackler family is evil. The first 175 pages focus almost exclusively on Arthur Sackler, who died before OxyContin was ever invented. The purpose of this history seems to be to set the stage to demonize every member of the Sackler family, whether living or dead, whether they were involved in OxyContin sales or not. In the course of 400+ pages, This book is a long slog with a pointed view that the Sacklers, Purdue pharma, and OxyContin are all evil — but most especially every single member of the Sackler family is evil. The first 175 pages focus almost exclusively on Arthur Sackler, who died before OxyContin was ever invented. The purpose of this history seems to be to set the stage to demonize every member of the Sackler family, whether living or dead, whether they were involved in OxyContin sales or not. In the course of 400+ pages, I don’t think there was a kind word about any member of the family, and one could easily be left wondering if any family member had a single positive quality or if they were simply the spawn of Satan. Lest you think anyone else get by unscathed, there’s plenty of righteous criticism to go around for every salesperson, marketer, prescribing doctor, FDA employee, private lawyer, government lawyer, politician, etc, who ever touched Purdue Pharma or the Sacklers. I’m sure at least some (perhaps a lot) of the criticism is warranted, but the book about Oxy is so blatantly one-sided as to be rather painful to read, even after surviving the novel-within-a-novel about Arthur Sackler’s life.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Rajat

    "They were careless people...they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess." - The Great Gatsby ..Only those who have a proclivity to abuse drugs are the ones who end up abusing them.. This had broadly been the defense to ward off any allegations of lackadaisical approach to handling the opioid crisis by the Sackler family, the family behind the much-vaunted "They were careless people...they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess." - The Great Gatsby ..Only those who have a proclivity to abuse drugs are the ones who end up abusing them.. This had broadly been the defense to ward off any allegations of lackadaisical approach to handling the opioid crisis by the Sackler family, the family behind the much-vaunted drug, OxyContin. However, as one discovers through the course of the book, between the early 1990s and the 2010s, many Americans joined ranks of these 'abusers', including individuals who had no prior history of abuse and were only consuming them as per doctor's recommendations. However, an ecosystem created by the Sacklers enabled an environment where aggressive salesmen, unscrupulous doctors and blind regulators ensured that a generation of Americans lived by the day, trapped between their medical predicament and the addiction fomented by the very instrument that was supposed to alleviate it. Radden Keefe's books are a delight; this one very much lives upto the hype.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Darcy

    I knew some about this, but in very broad strokes, that oxy was a huge problem in our country and that the people behind it tried to be blameless. I found it very hard to stop listening to this one, from the brother's start to the end when the Sackler name is trashed (and rightly so). At first I liked the older brother's hustle, but then when things started to get sneaky his wiley ways turned me off. I hated how it seemed like he had his hands in every aspect of what he was working, often behind I knew some about this, but in very broad strokes, that oxy was a huge problem in our country and that the people behind it tried to be blameless. I found it very hard to stop listening to this one, from the brother's start to the end when the Sackler name is trashed (and rightly so). At first I liked the older brother's hustle, but then when things started to get sneaky his wiley ways turned me off. I hated how it seemed like he had his hands in every aspect of what he was working, often behind the scenes and done so with shell companies so it wouldn't look bad. That is your first clue that you are doing something wrong. Then later when this brother got screwed over by the other 2, I couldn't feel bad. This family knew things were wrong with oxy, knew it wasn't what they touted it as, but didn't care, money and prestige was more important to them. While I'm glad that in the end they lost the prestige, I wish they would have had to loose the money to, to pay back for all the lives they ruined in their chase after greed.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Robert Zimmerman

    There are lots of contributing factors to the current opioid crisis, but the way OxyContin was marketed to doctors is one that is often overlooked. The family that owned purdue pharma, lied to the FDA, to doctors and to their own sales reps to push a drug that they knew was not only highly addictive but was being abused by not only the users of the drug but by criminal organizations who helped prolong those addictions. This book is a through examination of that family, whose addiction to money a There are lots of contributing factors to the current opioid crisis, but the way OxyContin was marketed to doctors is one that is often overlooked. The family that owned purdue pharma, lied to the FDA, to doctors and to their own sales reps to push a drug that they knew was not only highly addictive but was being abused by not only the users of the drug but by criminal organizations who helped prolong those addictions. This book is a through examination of that family, whose addiction to money and power was fulfilled through the suffering of others. By the end of the book you can wonder how differently the current opioid epidemic would be if the actions of the people behind the development, marketing and sale of such a dangerously addictive drug would be if they only they withheld the Hippocratic oath many of them swore to. instead of the wealth and power came to them for selling a newer moderen version of opium. The deadly drug that has brought nations to wage war, and brought wealth to those who are able to fight to control the poppy plant at any cost.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jonny

    Exceptionally good: it’s a real-world Lehman Trilogy, which forensically digs into how the Sackler family made its money and effectively serves as the case for the prosecution as to why all the cultural institutions to which they donated should be striking off their names, and why they should have faced criminal liability. Before about 2019, I had honestly assumed that the Sacklers were nineteenth century philanthropists with a particular interest in Egyptian and Oriental studies (and that if th Exceptionally good: it’s a real-world Lehman Trilogy, which forensically digs into how the Sackler family made its money and effectively serves as the case for the prosecution as to why all the cultural institutions to which they donated should be striking off their names, and why they should have faced criminal liability. Before about 2019, I had honestly assumed that the Sacklers were nineteenth century philanthropists with a particular interest in Egyptian and Oriental studies (and that if they’d made their money dubiously, they had done it in the way that lots of people of that era had). It took until the coverage around then of Purdue’s bankruptcy for me to start understanding the scale to which this deeply odd and destructive family had laundered their reputation, and until reading this book to understand how intentionally damaging their drugs were. It’s one of many angles on the opioid crisis in the US (as Radden Keefe makes clear in the book) but as a human drama facilitated by granular reporting, I imagine that it’s close to unbeatable.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Jill

    Read by the author, The Empire of Pain audiobook chronicles the history of the Sackler clan, Purdue Pharma and the development of the Oxycontin opioid. Purdue lied to the FDA about the addictive qualities of the drug, and exaggerated the dosage effectivity. One pill didn't last 12 hours as advertised, and people soon had to dose more and more to get the same effects. As the full extent of the devastation wrought by the drug became more evident and public criticism increased, the Sacklers pulled Read by the author, The Empire of Pain audiobook chronicles the history of the Sackler clan, Purdue Pharma and the development of the Oxycontin opioid. Purdue lied to the FDA about the addictive qualities of the drug, and exaggerated the dosage effectivity. One pill didn't last 12 hours as advertised, and people soon had to dose more and more to get the same effects. As the full extent of the devastation wrought by the drug became more evident and public criticism increased, the Sacklers pulled more and more cash out of the privately held business, until eventually the company was just a shell without enough assets to even fund the employee's retirement plan. The author relied heavily on court documents to piece together the history and actions of the company, and also interviewed many former employees and associates with a first hand knowledge of what happened within the company. The story isn't over yet, as litigation continues, but it has become abundantly clear that the Sacklers feel no personal responsibility for their part in the opioid crisis.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ruben Vermeeren

    This is the perfect non-fiction book for me: a sweeping family saga, a work of investigative journalism and a legal thriller all in one and told in a very pleasant, measured and rational style. I picked it up because I loved Keefe's book about the IRA last year. I wasn't sure I would have the concentration for over 500 pages on painkillers, but found myself pushing all other books aside. There was literally never a dull chapter. I learned a lot from it (on the pharmaceutical industry, marketing, This is the perfect non-fiction book for me: a sweeping family saga, a work of investigative journalism and a legal thriller all in one and told in a very pleasant, measured and rational style. I picked it up because I loved Keefe's book about the IRA last year. I wasn't sure I would have the concentration for over 500 pages on painkillers, but found myself pushing all other books aside. There was literally never a dull chapter. I learned a lot from it (on the pharmaceutical industry, marketing, philanthropy, patents and in particular: the crucial importance of an independent government and judiciary, with high moral standards, appropriate remuneration and long cooling-off periods for civil servants). The only thing I found somewhat under-represented (but Keefe acknowledges this himself in the afterword) was the science of addiction itself, which would have been important to better understand the validity of the argument that it's not the drugs that make the addiction but the addictive personality of the patient.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bridget Johnson (Jameson)

    This was very good! I listened to the audiobook, read by the author. From the news, I had a cursory knowledge of the Sacklers as bad people running a company that profits off addiction, and this book details how truly terrible they are. I didn’t find the story *as* shocking and full of twists as Radden’s previous two books, but maybe I’m cynical: a company - a pharma company! - lying about their product to increase profits? Politicians (mostly Republican) being soft/corruptible on holding the com This was very good! I listened to the audiobook, read by the author. From the news, I had a cursory knowledge of the Sacklers as bad people running a company that profits off addiction, and this book details how truly terrible they are. I didn’t find the story *as* shocking and full of twists as Radden’s previous two books, but maybe I’m cynical: a company - a pharma company! - lying about their product to increase profits? Politicians (mostly Republican) being soft/corruptible on holding the company or its rich owners accountable? People convincing themselves of just about anything to get/keep enormous wealth? The justice system being different for the rich? None of that is at all groundbreaking to me, but I still think it’s incredibly valuable that all of the abuses of wealth and power are cataloged together in one book. The book engaged me in a way most nonfiction doesn’t - it’s a long audiobook, but I finished it in less than five days.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Michaela

    It’s great. I’m not surprised, of course, but it’s a fantastic book. It reminded me a lot of Ronan Farrow’s “Catch and Kill” when Keefe started recounting the intimidation that he faced from the family for his reporting. This kind of stuff seems so much like a crime movie that it’s hard to believe it could happen to someone in real life. At the very end of the book, on his note on sources, Keefe writes that one evening he checked his mailbox to discover an envelope, with no return address, contai It’s great. I’m not surprised, of course, but it’s a fantastic book. It reminded me a lot of Ronan Farrow’s “Catch and Kill” when Keefe started recounting the intimidation that he faced from the family for his reporting. This kind of stuff seems so much like a crime movie that it’s hard to believe it could happen to someone in real life. At the very end of the book, on his note on sources, Keefe writes that one evening he checked his mailbox to discover an envelope, with no return address, containing a thumb drive and a quote from The Great Gatsby: “They were careless people... They smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was they kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess.” HOW IS THAT NOT STRAIGHT OUT OF A MOVIE??? Props to whoever sent Keefe that envelope because they certainly have an eye for DRAMA

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sharon

    A thorough retelling of the Sackler family since the early 1900s and their relationships to two double-edged swords of modern drugs: Valium and OxyContin. The family decided what consumers would think through advertising and what doctors would think by owning medical publications, and know what everyone was buying through drug sales accounting data. By controlling every aspect of a drug’s release, from demand by doctors to knowledge of where it sells and how much, multiple generations of Sackler A thorough retelling of the Sackler family since the early 1900s and their relationships to two double-edged swords of modern drugs: Valium and OxyContin. The family decided what consumers would think through advertising and what doctors would think by owning medical publications, and know what everyone was buying through drug sales accounting data. By controlling every aspect of a drug’s release, from demand by doctors to knowledge of where it sells and how much, multiple generations of Sacklers could sell drugs without being honest about the risk of addiction. Keefe is honest that he’s not the first journalist to research the Sacklers and their drugs, and gives credit to the others who have covered them over the decades. Keefe not only presents what he’s learned about the family since the Depression, but what it means and where their moral culpability is. It’s well written and couldn’t be more important to understanding the current opioid crisis.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Debbie Mann

    I saw a lot of low stars in reviews but no review written then I click on the person giving low stars and almost all had no other books in Good Reads so I’m thinking it’s the Sackler family making these up to give the book lower reviews 😂 The first part of this book reads like a history of “Ad Men”. This book blew me away. I had no idea about this family and they all seem like horrible people. Some were communist or sympathizers all the while jet setting all over the world skiing or collecting ar I saw a lot of low stars in reviews but no review written then I click on the person giving low stars and almost all had no other books in Good Reads so I’m thinking it’s the Sackler family making these up to give the book lower reviews 😂 The first part of this book reads like a history of “Ad Men”. This book blew me away. I had no idea about this family and they all seem like horrible people. Some were communist or sympathizers all the while jet setting all over the world skiing or collecting art. They were dishonest, immoral, greedy, unethical, entitled... There is no real justice when it comes to that much money, it can always be bought. Nothing more than drug pushers and they will never be held accountable. OxyContin sales made them their money at the expense of all those dead. They never did anything good unless there was something in it for them. Great book.

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