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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

    K.J. Charles

    I've been reading a lot of non fiction because I haven't been able to read romance. After this I want to crawl into a hole with forty romance novels and never come out. Jesus. This is horrifying. As a Brit I didn't know about this horrendous story of greed and selfishness, which is simultaneously utterly compelling and unbearable to read. I don't know which are worse: the staggering greed monsters that are the Sacklers, the phalanx of lawyers and capos who helped them get away with it, the publi I've been reading a lot of non fiction because I haven't been able to read romance. After this I want to crawl into a hole with forty romance novels and never come out. Jesus. This is horrifying. As a Brit I didn't know about this horrendous story of greed and selfishness, which is simultaneously utterly compelling and unbearable to read. I don't know which are worse: the staggering greed monsters that are the Sacklers, the phalanx of lawyers and capos who helped them get away with it, the public officials and politicians who took bribes with both hands, the institutions (many British) who gave them a sheen of respectability in exchange for blood money, the doctors who knowingly pumped opioids into people and the salesmen who helped them do it. All of the above. Actually I think I hate the public officials and politicians most. They had a duty. This is a broken, broken society, capitalism at its finest, money creating monsters, and the only cure is the fucking guillotine because as this book makes clear, most of the people (rich white privileged people) who've lived high off the hog of legal drug-pushing, addiction and death just don't see they did anything wrong and don't intend to take any responsibility, ever. I lay awake last night because of this book and the enraging picture it presents of how greedy, selfish bastards get away with it thanks to a corrupt system that serves only the rich. I hope there's a hell. You should read it, and then let's go burn some things down.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Traci Thomas

    This is A+ reporting and storytelling. The story of the Sackler family is expertly laid out for the reader. Riveting and sickening. Investigative journalism at its best. Read this book.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Regina

    Empire of Pain will easily make my list of the best books I read in 2021. My guess is if you read it, it will end up on yours too. Journalist Patrick Radden Keefe chronicles three generations of the Sackler family, the people behind Purdue Pharma, also known as the makers of OxyContin, better known as the creators of the current opioid epidemic. Their story is one of philanthropy and philandering, of pioneering and pilfering, and of grandeur and greed. It begins back in 1904 when Isaac Sackler i Empire of Pain will easily make my list of the best books I read in 2021. My guess is if you read it, it will end up on yours too. Journalist Patrick Radden Keefe chronicles three generations of the Sackler family, the people behind Purdue Pharma, also known as the makers of OxyContin, better known as the creators of the current opioid epidemic. Their story is one of philanthropy and philandering, of pioneering and pilfering, and of grandeur and greed. It begins back in 1904 when Isaac Sackler immigrated to America, had three sons, and encouraged them to dream big and become doctors. Though the Great Depression hit him hard, he told his sons, “What I have given you is the most important thing a father can give… a good name.” Two generations later, that good name is being removed from museums and educational institutions. The 21st century Sacklers pushed their wonder drug OxyContin so hard and so recklessly that millions have become addicted and died. I personally know at least three people who have died from opioid overdoses, and I bet you do too. The marvel of PRK’s reportage though is that a book that could be so dry is utterly fascinating. While I sadly lost interest in his prior work, Say Nothing, about The Troubles in Northern Ireland, I flew through Empire of Pain in two days. For those with HBO, the two-part documentary series “The Crime of the Century” makes an excellent companion piece for this book, as does the fictional drama “Succession.” Both further showcase how greed is so intoxicating that right is indistinguishable from wrong. The pull of power and money can be so strong that the most important thing - a good name - becomes collateral damage. In the case of the Sacklers, unfortunately that collateral damage includes millions of lives lost to a crisis they helped to create by recklessly pushing sales of their pain medication. The Sacklers continue to try to hide behind the Purdue Pharma corporate name, but thanks to journalism like Empire of Pain they’re becoming increasingly exposed. Kudos to Patrick Radden Keefe for bringing this story to light. Blog: https://www.confettibookshelf.com/

  4. 4 out of 5

    Beverly

    Patrick Radden Keefe is a brilliant journalist and writer. I read Say Nothing by him, also, which is another top notch non-fiction book that recently won a prize.That book was about the abduction and murder of Jean McConville who was the sole support for her 10 children and who was later found to be innocent of spying for the British. She was executed by the Irish Republican Army in 1972, anyway, and as far as I can tell, nobody gave a damn. I was riveted by that story and by this one too. In an Patrick Radden Keefe is a brilliant journalist and writer. I read Say Nothing by him, also, which is another top notch non-fiction book that recently won a prize.That book was about the abduction and murder of Jean McConville who was the sole support for her 10 children and who was later found to be innocent of spying for the British. She was executed by the Irish Republican Army in 1972, anyway, and as far as I can tell, nobody gave a damn. I was riveted by that story and by this one too. In an interview for The Guardian, Keefe, who is American, said that he's always been interested in secrecy and with the Sacklers, he hit the mother lode. This family, who was known for being philanthropic, held a tight grip on the source of their immense wealth for many decades. Even close friends didn't know what they got rich off of. Keefe went right back to the beginning to proud Jewish immigrants who instilled in their 3 sons a belief in education, hard work and paradoxically the value of a "good" name. The eldest son, Arthur was the dynamo who started the family in the drug business after he got his medical license. Arthur Sackler discovered what he was really great at was selling. He, singlehandedly, reinvented how the public is sold pills. He began the horrible, pushy sales reps who hound doctors. It is no secret that these pill pushers are attractive, young people. Free gifts, dinners for prescribers, all that was started by Arthur. He even won awards for his selling techniques. What made his fortune was Valium. His brothers surpassed him by using his sales techniques to push a new drug that their company invented, a little opioid called OxyContin. This pill took off so well that between 1999 and 2019, 500,000 Americans had overdosed on it. The family never felt or expressed any remorse for this Hell they unleashed and were still trying to come up with a new version of it---for children, when their business finally imploded. There is no vindication though. Their company took bankruptcy, but they got to keep their billions.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Michael Perkins

    How it all started..... https://www.vox.com/2017/6/5/15111936... ====================== The article that the book expanded from. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20... ===================== New documentary.... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkU75... ============ sociopaths.... https://www.npr.org/2021/06/02/100208... How it all started..... https://www.vox.com/2017/6/5/15111936... ====================== The article that the book expanded from. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/20... ===================== New documentary.... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkU75... ============ sociopaths.... https://www.npr.org/2021/06/02/100208...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Perry

    Compelling story and swirling subplots around the Sackler men and women whose billions were gained on pain and abusive practices concerning opioids, as well as of some heroes who brought the Sacklers to heel. Comprehensive history of the Sackler dynasty, the descendants of Polish Ukrainian Jewish immigrants to Brooklyn, largely hidden behind their company, Purdue Pharma and its prized Oxycontin, et al. Coherent argument for the family's primary responsibility for the North American opioid crisis Compelling story and swirling subplots around the Sackler men and women whose billions were gained on pain and abusive practices concerning opioids, as well as of some heroes who brought the Sacklers to heel. Comprehensive history of the Sackler dynasty, the descendants of Polish Ukrainian Jewish immigrants to Brooklyn, largely hidden behind their company, Purdue Pharma and its prized Oxycontin, et al. Coherent argument for the family's primary responsibility for the North American opioid crisis.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Elle

    A painstaking account of the very beginnings of the Sackler family business, starting with the founding and acquisition of several companies by Arther, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, to present day where their name is being scraped off of the side of institutions they donated millions to, Patrick Radden Keefe has provided the ultimate guide to the people behind the pills at Purdue. Obviously they are not the first to market unsafe pharmaceuticals to a vulnerable population, or the only players in A painstaking account of the very beginnings of the Sackler family business, starting with the founding and acquisition of several companies by Arther, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler, to present day where their name is being scraped off of the side of institutions they donated millions to, Patrick Radden Keefe has provided the ultimate guide to the people behind the pills at Purdue. Obviously they are not the first to market unsafe pharmaceuticals to a vulnerable population, or the only players in this massive industry. The politicians in the pocket of big pharma, the medical providers and doctors who facilitate these massive drug schemes, the regulators who look the other way—there’s a lot of culpable parties. But I feel like Keefe draws a clear line between not just the Sacklers and Purdue taking advantage of these systems, but actively making them worse for the public. They laid the groundwork for future companies to follow, all with seemingly no consequences. Between this and COVID, I don’t know how anyone can look at our healthcare system and not be repulsed. The amazing thing to me about the ultra-wealthy is that it does not take an unattainable amount of brilliance to stay rich, just a moderate level of competence. There was one, maybe two true visionaries in this family, despite that vision being morally bankrupt, and after the companies were built there wasn’t much left to do. The rest of the family members were little more than warm bodies who coasted by on accumulated wealth, too wrapped up in their own self-importance to even attempt to care about the devastation left in their wake. What the Sacklers did have in spades was an unmatched level of egotism and callous win-at-all-costs mentality, both of which eventually contributed to the downfall of Purdue after years of being the things propping it up. A perhaps an unexpected result, but there’s nothing that gives this more credibility to me than the first few sentences of A Note on Sources at the end of the book. “The Sackler family did not cooperate with my efforts to research this book. None of the Sacklers who feature prominently agreed to grant interviews.” I would be immediately skeptical of any work that they willingly involved themselves with. I’m sure this was frustrating for a writer, but still probably anticipated by Keefe. Everything in his reporting would suggest this is a family that does not engage in anything unless they are in full control of the narrative. Lately I’ve been thinking about objectivity in journalism, as well as reading reporters share their own feelings on the subject. Much of the complaints by the Sackler clan against those who have reported on their family’s misdeeds have led with an accusation of the journalist in question being “biased” or motivated by some other self-serving desire. This premise is both ridiculous in the context of the case, but also broadly speaking. And this kind of demand for absolute neutrality from those reporting the news is unrealistic, but also sanitizes the crimes of the powerful. It’s the way we get phrases like “officer involved shooting” that exist entirely in a passive voice. And with over 800,000 Americans dead and millions left reeling in the fallout of the Sacklers’ greed, the last thing that I want in any analysis is passivity. And now I’m going to do something I rarely do, which is give credit to a publisher. I’ve criticized publishing houses for not supporting their authors, giving book deals to known liars with dubious fact-checking or possibly the worst offense: printing book club ‘stickers’ directly onto covers. But putting out a nonfiction work like this, especially one that so directly shines a light towards organizations that have used their over-powered legal forces to silence and punish critics, does take a certain level of nerve and belief in their authors’ work. Keefe directly named Bill Thomas, Daniel Novack, Kimon de Greef and Julie Tate among a dozen others for their efforts, so credit to them and the rest of the team involved. One of the refrains that David Sackler repeatedly echoed was his desire to “humanize” his family. With this book, I believe that Patrick Radden Keefe accomplished that goal for him. The author, with the help of previous efforts by journalists like Barry Meier, prosecutors like Maura Healey and activists like Nan Goldin, has fully removed the veil obscuring the Sackler name from their deadly legacy. It’s my belief that even after everything, they’re going to get away with it. But it will come at a cost, possibly the only thing they value near as much as money: their reputation. And now embossed in gold lettering, a New York Times Best Seller, their name in the subtitle The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty will forever follow the phrase Empire of Pain . If the shame does not devour this family, I hope it perpetually shadows them. If you liked this book by Keefe, I’d also highly recommend Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland by him as well. **For more book talk & reviews, follow me on Instagram at @elle_mentbooks!

  8. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    What's in a name? Arthur Sackler’s father Isaac valued giving his family a good name and reputation above all else. He may have lost his money in an economic downturn, but he took great pride in knowing he provided his children with a namesake they could be proud of. A fortune you can rebuild, he’d said, but once you lose your good name, it’s gone forever. Decades later the Sackler name wasn't just something to be proud of, it was synonymous with philanthropy. Wings of museums bore the name, as d What's in a name? Arthur Sackler’s father Isaac valued giving his family a good name and reputation above all else. He may have lost his money in an economic downturn, but he took great pride in knowing he provided his children with a namesake they could be proud of. A fortune you can rebuild, he’d said, but once you lose your good name, it’s gone forever. Decades later the Sackler name wasn't just something to be proud of, it was synonymous with philanthropy. Wings of museums bore the name, as did numerous structures on college campuses, yet very few people knew much about the Sacklers or where their great fortune came from. Recently however, it has come to light that their fortune was built on the back of big pharma and more specifically the oxy and opioid crisis. A name once famous, now infamous… Patrick Radden Keefe is quickly becoming one of my go-to authors for investigative nonfiction. I absolutely devoured this, as well as his previous Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, both of which I listened to in audiobook format. I find listening helps to make the size and depth of the material feel a bit less intimidating. This truly is a look into the family dynasty, almost a multi-biography, moreso than just a history of Purdue Pharma and the massive and devastating effects it has had on prescription drug advertising, pain management and the opioid crisis. Because of this, I sometimes felt the real meat here, the fascinating subject matter, got a bit lost in side tangents and personal stories. Did I *really* need quite so much detail about Arthur Sackler’s proclivity for Chinese art collection, or Richard’s odd choice of research project with a college roommate? With the Sacklers in particular, who have been notoriously private and closed off, much of this information is coming to light for the first time due to the author's research, so I do certainly understand the urge and reasoning behind including such detail. For me personally though, it was really my only criticism here. I'd highly recommend this book to pretty much anyone and everyone, but if lengthy nonfiction is not your thing, hey, I get it. If nothing else, pull up John Oliver's brilliant Sackler Gallery project where you can watch some serious and some less serious dramatic readings of Richard Sackler being deposed. I dare you not to hear the words "I don't know" in Richard Kind's voice from now on whenever you read them.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Wynne Kontos RONA READS

    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. According to Purdue Pharma’s advertising spiel, the pill's time release coating made it not addictive 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 using this misleading or false advertising helped create the opiate crisis. A crisis in 1996 and then again in 2010, when the drug was "reformulated" in order to make it harder to abuse. Unable to crush the pills, 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 who had received substantial donations from the Sacklers. 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 OF 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 like the film 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. ______ Want more book recommendations? Be sure to follow #RONAREADS on Instagram @ronareads4u or visit our digital storefront on Bookshop: https://bookshop.org/shop/ronareads

  10. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    A comprehensive, well-researched book on the Sackler family and their huge role in the opioid epidemic as founders of Purdue Pharma. The greed (and depravity) of this family is astounding - all glossed over with their art philanthropy. Keefe is very thorough, sometimes too detailed for me. (I found the same problem with "Say Nothing") But overall, an excellent, educational book. A comprehensive, well-researched book on the Sackler family and their huge role in the opioid epidemic as founders of Purdue Pharma. The greed (and depravity) of this family is astounding - all glossed over with their art philanthropy. Keefe is very thorough, sometimes too detailed for me. (I found the same problem with "Say Nothing") But overall, an excellent, educational book.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Krista

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the quarter century following the introduction of OxyContin, some 450,000 Americans had died of opioid-related overdoses. Such overdoses were now the leading cause of accidental death in America, accounting for more deaths than car accidents — more deaths, even, than that most quintessentially American of metrics, gunshot wounds. In fact, more Americans had lost their lives from opioid overdoses than had died in all of the wars t According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the quarter century following the introduction of OxyContin, some 450,000 Americans had died of opioid-related overdoses. Such overdoses were now the leading cause of accidental death in America, accounting for more deaths than car accidents — more deaths, even, than that most quintessentially American of metrics, gunshot wounds. In fact, more Americans had lost their lives from opioid overdoses than had died in all of the wars the country had fought since WWII. There is a Chinese proverb that says, “Wealth does not pass three generations”, and in a way, Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Family explores this adage. Journalist Patrick Radden Keefe takes a deep dive into explaining how three Depression-era brothers created an empire from nothing; how their children rapaciously turned a multi-million dollar conglomerate into a multi-billion dollar one; and how the third, current, generation is so entitled and out of touch that they insist on enjoying their family’s vast fortune while disavowing any connection to its accumulation. The book ends with the bankruptcy of Purdue Pharma — the exclusive manufacturer of OxyContin, wholly owned by the Sackler family — and universities, galleries, and museums around the world removing the Sackler name from their buildings. The Sackler family may have funnelled much of their wealth into offshore accounts in anticipation of their current legal imbroglios, but their name will be forever linked with the devastating opioid crisis that they knowingly unleashed on the world and it remains to be seen whether the current generation will have the knowhow to generate more wealth, or simply blow through what they have. I most enjoyed the early parts of Empire of Pain: the story of two Eastern European Jewish immigrants who travelled to Brooklyn in pursuit of the American Dream and the work ethic that they instilled in their three sons; each of whom became a medical doctor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist. The eldest, Arthur, was a polymath, aesthete, and the most striving of the brothers (he would pay for his own and his brothers’ educations with his side hustles while in med school himself) and it was Arthur who would come up with the idea of owning each arm of the octopus that is drugs manufacturing and marketing. As Radden Keefe writes, “They could develop a drug, have it clinically tested, secure favorable reports from the doctors and hospitals with which they had connections, devise an advertising campaign in their agency, publish the clinical articles and the advertisements in their own medical journals, and use their public relations muscle to place articles in newspapers and magazines.” And while this first generation of brothers wasn’t entirely likeable or honorable, they did seem to work quite hard and commit themselves to philanthropic acts (even if, as Arthur’s lawyer once explained, Philanthropy wasn’t charity. It was a business. It was all about the tax write offs, the purchase of prestige, and the Sackler name above the door.) When the narrative gets to the second generation — those who developed OxyContin and unleashed a massive salesforce to push it on initially reluctant prescribers — the Sacklers appear to have entirely lost their humanity in the pursuit of colossal wealth. In the 1940s, Arthur Sackler had watched the introduction of Thorazine. It was a “major” tranquilizer that worked wonders on patients who were psychotic. But the way the Sackler family made its first great fortune was with Arthur’s involvement in marketing the “minor” tranquilizers Librium and Valium. Thorazine was perceived as a heavy-duty solution for a heavy-duty problem, but the market for the drug was naturally limited to people suffering from severe enough conditions to warrant a major tranquilizer. The beauty of the minor tranquilizers was that they were for everyone. The reason those drugs were such a success was that they were pills that you could pop to relieve an extraordinary range of common psychological and emotional ailments. Now Arthur’s brothers and his nephew Richard would make the same pivot with a pain-killer: they had enjoyed great success with MS Contin, but it was perceived as a heavy-duty drug for cancer. And cancer was a limited market. If you could figure out a way to market OxyContin not just for cancer but for any sort of pain, the profits would be astronomical. The details of this story are maddening — the pill mills, the corruption at the FDA, backroom deals at the Justice Department — and if I had a complaint it would be that there are simply too many details. Radden Keefe quotes everyone from doormen to other journos and countless unnamed insiders; there is an entire chapter (in an already long book) about Richard Sackler’s college roommate (who would find the man who eventually became the main driver behind OxyContin’s marketing push to be unempathetic and out of touch). And if I had another complaint: The main defense that the Sacklers seem to offer is that they were small players in the opioid market (they claim a 4% market share; Radden Keefe says that calculated in a different way, they were closer to 30%), yet the thrust of this book is that this one family and their small pharmaceutical company are entirely responsible for the opioid crisis (including the ensuing rise in heroin and fentanyl abuse in America), and I don’t know if the author proved that to me. (The Sacklers’ other defense is that they can’t be responsible for how addictive types might abuse their otherwise valuable medication and that leads to the interesting question of whether opioid manufacturers should be treated like Big Tobacco [who knowingly marketed a lethal product and ended up paying the price] or like the Gun Lobby [who get away with insisting that responsibility for the use of guns is entirely in the hands of the user.] I honestly don’t know the answer, but it’s an interesting question.) As an investigative journalist, Radden Keefe has found a great hook with the Sackler family — the humble beginnings, the genius and quest for respectability of the founders, the greed of the next generation that led to the accumulation of billions and the disgrace of the family name — but I wish he added more perspective on how they fit into the bigger picture of a genuine health and social crisis. This is an exhaustive story of a family, but it didn’t feel like the whole story. As they sought to hide from a historic crisis of their own creation, the Sacklers could sometimes seem like Pandora, gazing, slack-jawed, at the momentous downstream consequences of their own decisions. They told the world, and themselves, that the jar was full of blessings, that it was a gift from the gods. They opened it, and they were wrong. I might come across as nitpicking but this is still a 4+ star read; Radden Keefe tells a fascinating story about an urgent topic, and while it might be a bit long, I was never bored. One thing for certain: Were the Sackler wealth not to pass the third generation, there would be few tears outside the family.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stacey B

    The reason I read this book is that I stumbled over a very intriguing article written about the Sackler's before I knew anything relating to a book. Recognizing the name and seeing it as a headliner, I was disgusted, but at that point I didn't know the history. I didn't want to be that person-who believes everything they read in print. So, so often articles are full of drama and half-truths for the media to glob on to. I wanted to get past the family arrogance to understand at what point greed b The reason I read this book is that I stumbled over a very intriguing article written about the Sackler's before I knew anything relating to a book. Recognizing the name and seeing it as a headliner, I was disgusted, but at that point I didn't know the history. I didn't want to be that person-who believes everything they read in print. So, so often articles are full of drama and half-truths for the media to glob on to. I wanted to get past the family arrogance to understand at what point greed became the first addiction tied to the Sackler's. Based only on the reputation of this author I was hoping he would put in his 110% for this book; in that he would be accurate in research but more so, Keefe would write it fairly. His book was both which didn't let me down one bit. Bravo PRK !! Sadly, yet in a convoluted way, this story reminds me of the Madoff family.

  13. 4 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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Ophelia Alderton

    “Addicts want to be addicted, they get themselves addicted over and over again.” Richard Sackler The Sackler family sold opioids as if they were selling sweets and truth be told there are probably more controls put in place over sweets than there are over highly addictive and life destroying drugs. This book reads like a thriller. From the beginnings of Arthur Sackler studying psychology to the present day indifference to human suffering and all the horrifying bits in between. I highly recommend “Addicts want to be addicted, they get themselves addicted over and over again.” Richard Sackler The Sackler family sold opioids as if they were selling sweets and truth be told there are probably more controls put in place over sweets than there are over highly addictive and life destroying drugs. This book reads like a thriller. From the beginnings of Arthur Sackler studying psychology to the present day indifference to human suffering and all the horrifying bits in between. I highly recommend this book to learn more about this family, the opioid crisis and just how pharmaceutical companies can manipulate.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Woman Reading

    4.5 ☆ Bravo, Patrick Keefe! The author of Say Nothing has done it again by presenting a complex story about crimes that have eluded punishment to date and the broader background that enabled the situation. Empire of Pain described the Sacklers' role in the opioid crisis. As Keefe stated, his intention was to tell a saga about the generations of a family dynasty and the ways in which it changed the world, a story about ambition, philanthropy, crime and impunity, the corruption of instituti 4.5 ☆ Bravo, Patrick Keefe! The author of Say Nothing has done it again by presenting a complex story about crimes that have eluded punishment to date and the broader background that enabled the situation. Empire of Pain described the Sacklers' role in the opioid crisis. As Keefe stated, his intention was to tell a saga about the generations of a family dynasty and the ways in which it changed the world, a story about ambition, philanthropy, crime and impunity, the corruption of institutions, power, and greed. Isaac Sackler and Sophie Greenberg, both immigrants, met and married in New York. However it was the next generation - their sons Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond who were all born during the decade of 1910 - who began to amass the wealth associated with the Sackler name. All three sons graduated from medical programs. Clinical practices were not their priority, and the doctor titles were wielded to promote their authority and social status. Arthur's area of expertise was in the melding of promotion and medicine. The bulk of his wealth came from a savvy compensation agreement to market the blockbuster Valium for Roche. He established the family pattern of being the silent but influential person behind a drug while simultaneously making the Sackler name known through philanthropic strategies. But Arthur was also a big brother who had looked after his two younger siblings. With them in mind, Arthur had acquired Purdue Frederick in the 1950s, a small business that sold pharmaceuticals through licensing agreements. As part of their nascent pharmaceutical empire, the Sackler brothers had also purchased Napp Laboratories in the UK in the 1960s. Under Mortimer's watch, Napp had created something revolutionary - morphine in pill form. It was launched in 1980 as MS Contin in the U.K. In order to maximize its value, the Sacklers needed to bring MS Contin to the US market, which was Raymond's domain. This was where Keefe's narrative really became interesting. Arthur's professional habits had displayed a complete disregard for the concept of "conflict of interest," but the US launch of MS Contin demonstrated that the Sacklers were adept at interpreting rules and skirting laws to suit their objectives. Purdue Frederick started to sell MS Contin in 1984, even though this drug, new to the US, did not have FDA approval. The success of MS Contin kicked the wealth level of the Sackler family up into a higher level. By this point, members of the third generation, primarily offspring from Mortimer and from Raymond, were actively involved in the family business. As many younger Sacklers assumed board positions, they also created a new company, Purdue Pharma, in 1991 to "take on the risk of new products." With Richard as the primary architect, the oxycodone project would take center stage. The supernova of the opioid crisis was oxycodone, an opioid cousin of both morphine and heroin, and it had been synthesized in 1917. Because of its high potency, oxycodone had been prescribed only in combination with aspirin or acetaminophen. Purdue Pharma's oxycodone project - ultimately branded as OxyContin - would be to deliver high dosage, pure oxycodone as enabled by a special pill coating that would ostensibly lead to steady, extended medication release. It received FDA approval in December 1995 after persistent lobbying (more like "regulatory capture") and a distorted presentation of what OxyContin was. Sales began in January 1996. In the first year, Purdue sold $44 million of OxyContin. The following year, sales more than doubled. The year after that, they doubled again. ... sales through September 1999 year-to-date [were] $601 million. [OxyContin] became one of the biggest blockbusters in pharmaceutical history, generating some $35 billion in revenue. In 2013, Purdue staff informed the Sackler board members that overdose deaths had more than tripled since 1990 and that these deaths were only the "tip of the iceberg," because for every individual who died of an overdose, there were a hundred others suffering from prescription opioid dependence or abuse. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, in the quarter century following the introduction of OxyContin, some 450,000 Americans had died of opioid-related overdoses. The Sacklers have nothing to be ashamed of or to apologize for, [Kathe Sackler] maintained - because there's nothing wrong with OxyContin. "It's a very good medicine, and it's a very effective and safe medicine," she said. “I think Upton Sinclair once wrote that a man has difficulty understanding something if his salary depends on his not understanding." Empire of Pain was well written -- thorough and objective. Keefe elaborated that there was plenty of blame in the opioid crisis to allocate (here a list of all the parties in the massive multidistrict lawsuit - https://www.govinfo.gov/app/details/U...). The Sacklers weren't the only pharmaceutical sellers of oxycodone, but they were the pioneers or the "taproot," as one attorney characterized it. This was a maddening topic. So much of the family story was about hubris, willfully blind obstinacy to opposing facts, and a dogged pursuit of fraudulent and unethical marketing campaigns. Keefe had an independent fact checker look over his manuscript and he had included the dissenting comments from the Sacklers. It's looking doubtful at this moment whether those who suffered from the opioid crisis will receive their justice. More significantly, the Sacklers had devised an endgame strategy which will likely leave them relatively unscathed; Purdue Pharma had filed for bankruptcy. This makes it consistent with the common wisdom about the longevity of family-owned businesses -- that they rarely survive to be passed onto the third generation. But in this case, the demise of the family enterprise looked deliberate. “What I have given you is the most important thing a father can give,” Isaac told Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond. What he had given them, he said, was “a good name.” At least, Empire of Pain made public the truth behind the Sackler name.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Truman32

    Some families seem genetically disposed with certain traits. Take for instance the Righteous Brothers and the Ramones. These families have the genetic knack to gift the world with head-bopping tunes. The Manning family possesses the genetic gift of throwing a football really far and accurately. And then we have the Sackler family, the owners of Purdue Pharma which more than likely started the opioid crises with their aggressive (and often untruthful) strategy to hawk OxyContin pills to anyone an Some families seem genetically disposed with certain traits. Take for instance the Righteous Brothers and the Ramones. These families have the genetic knack to gift the world with head-bopping tunes. The Manning family possesses the genetic gift of throwing a football really far and accurately. And then we have the Sackler family, the owners of Purdue Pharma which more than likely started the opioid crises with their aggressive (and often untruthful) strategy to hawk OxyContin pills to anyone and everyone in the name of greed. It seems the Sacklers have some sort of programing in their DNA to be just totally awful horrible people. In Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty, author Patrick Radden Keefe meticulously details this family from first generation immigrants doing despicable things, to the second generation working hard to complete their deplorable work, to the current third generation keeping on keeping on with their reprehensible tasks. What at first seems like an all-American tale of a family with nothing pulling themselves up through hard work quickly turns and becomes a tale of a family consumed by greed and willing to obliterate any and all ethical or moral codes simply to line their pockets with money. Of course it is impossible to talk about the Sacklers without bringing up John Wayne Gacy. Now you may say this is not a fair comparison, serial killer (and wonderfully delightful clown) Gacy has killed only 33 people while the Sacklers by fueling the deadly opioid crisis have the blood of more than 200,000 on their hands. Why do I want to do poor John Wayne like that? But stay with me. Both are driven to do what they want. They are only focused on themselves, their urges: Gacy to murder and the Sacklers to make themselves rich. Neither could care less about the toll their little hobbies take on society, or the pain they cause. I would also be remiss when discussing the Sacklers if I did not also mention garbage. Not your traditional garbage, but stinky fly covered garbage that contains the rancid bodies of several mob informants, glowing radioactive barrels, and a fair amount of canine fecal matter. Now you may say that this is a horrible comparison. The Sacklers are unremittent liars who have no qualms about killing people to make their already obscenely rich selves even richer but their hygiene is beyond reproach. Perhaps, but consider this: If Mr. Grinch, that green fellow who is always climbing into the open windows of the homes in Whoville is a bad banana with a greasy black peel, then the Sacklers can only be this large pile of rotten malodorous garbage. Empire of Pain painstakingly documents the secretive Sacklers as they go about their horrible deeds. Sometimes in too much detail; the lying, the sneakiness, the non-stop plotting to get everyone to swallow their highly addictive pain medication becomes monotonous in its repetition. It would be impossible to write anything about the Sacklers without also bringing up Cujo, the rabid Saint Bernard who terrorized Castle Rock in the summer of 1980. Like this deranged dog, foaming at the mouth and attempting to bite anyone within reach, the Sackler family is unhinged. They are unable to see the pain they cause or take any ownership of what they have done. Their breath also smells of kibble. Like a lot. What is up with that?

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sheree | Keeping Up With The Penguins

    Empire Of Pain is a chunky book, but it doesn’t read like one – it’s every bit as gripping and compelling as any fictional family saga. (And don’t worry, the medical jargon is comprehensible to anyone who’s ever watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.) With the precision of a prosecutor, but the even-handedness of a responsible journalist, Radden Keefe picks apart the origins of this dynasty’s deadly legacy. This is one of my favourite reads of 2021 so far, a must-must-must for fans of Erin Brocko Empire Of Pain is a chunky book, but it doesn’t read like one – it’s every bit as gripping and compelling as any fictional family saga. (And don’t worry, the medical jargon is comprehensible to anyone who’s ever watched an episode of Grey’s Anatomy.) With the precision of a prosecutor, but the even-handedness of a responsible journalist, Radden Keefe picks apart the origins of this dynasty’s deadly legacy. This is one of my favourite reads of 2021 so far, a must-must-must for fans of Erin Brockovich and The Social Network. My full review of Empire Of Pain is up now on Keeping Up With The Penguins.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    This book is a very personal read for me. My father's favorite aunt became addicted to Valium in the early 1960's, and by 1970 she was no longer the woman he knew and loved. Three people connected to me became addicted to their prescribed pain medication, OxyContin, and subsequently died of overdoses. This book, however, is not about the victims and their families. Keefe writes, "There are many good books about the opioid crisis. My intention was to tell a different kind of story, however, a saga This book is a very personal read for me. My father's favorite aunt became addicted to Valium in the early 1960's, and by 1970 she was no longer the woman he knew and loved. Three people connected to me became addicted to their prescribed pain medication, OxyContin, and subsequently died of overdoses. This book, however, is not about the victims and their families. Keefe writes, "There are many good books about the opioid crisis. My intention was to tell a different kind of story, however, a saga about three generations of a family dynasty and the ways in which it changed the world, a story about ambition, philanthropy, crime and impunity, the corruption of institutions, power, and greed." You will see the words gripping and compelling in most reviews about this work because it is. Keefe's writing is brilliant. He chronicles the rise of the Sackler family from the early 1900's to the present and their relationship with pharmaceuticals. "Arthur [Sackler] created the world in which OxyContin could do what it did. He pioneered medical advertising and marketing, the co-opting of the Food and Drug Administration, the mingling of medicine and commerce." And his brothers and their families carried on this way of doing business. I have little stomach for the actions of the members of this family, their lawyers, and much of their workforce. I am disheartened to learn how the FDA, the DOJ, and various politicians have responded to the Sackler family. Despite the caliber of the writing, I could only ingest this work one bite at a time. It is demoralizing to see how money and influence insulates this family from the consequences of their actions. This book is narrative journalism at its best; do pick it up and read it.

  19. 4 out of 5

    donna backshall

    The name Sackler is one I never knew I never wanted to know.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jill S

    Another exceptional book from my main man PRK! Full review to follow, but for now, allow me to share my favourite sentence from the book: "The rigour is stupefying" he wrote in a letter to a friend, before signing off, as only a college student can, "I have Sophocles to read." Another exceptional book from my main man PRK! Full review to follow, but for now, allow me to share my favourite sentence from the book: "The rigour is stupefying" he wrote in a letter to a friend, before signing off, as only a college student can, "I have Sophocles to read."

  21. 5 out of 5

    SuperWendy

    Capitalism is a hell of a drug. I wasn't as obsessed with this as I was with Radden Keefe's previous book, Say Nothing, but it's still a riveting read and a dynamite listen on audiobook. The author details three generations of the Sackler family and the rise of Purdue Pharma, the drug company that unleashed OxyContin on to the world. If for some reason you were under the impression that pharmaceutical advertising isn't completely gross - this book is here to tell you otherwise. Also if you ever w Capitalism is a hell of a drug. I wasn't as obsessed with this as I was with Radden Keefe's previous book, Say Nothing, but it's still a riveting read and a dynamite listen on audiobook. The author details three generations of the Sackler family and the rise of Purdue Pharma, the drug company that unleashed OxyContin on to the world. If for some reason you were under the impression that pharmaceutical advertising isn't completely gross - this book is here to tell you otherwise. Also if you ever wondered why people hate lawyers? Yeah, this book. The Sacklers reportedly aren't happy about this book, but if anything Radden Keefe is shockingly even-handed - the blind, willful arrogance of the family and the complete lack of understanding by American medicine of addiction created a perfect storm - the author doesn't have to dress that up for shock value. And these folks reaped billions while trying to hide behind a cloak of philanthropic gifts/donations like 19th century robber barons. When I wasn't angry, I was in jaw-dropping awe of the sheer mountain of hubris. Highly recommended.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Louise

    So many times at the Met or Smithsonian, I’ve wondered: who are these Sacklers? I never took the time to look them up, so the source of their wealth was a surprise to me. Patrick Radden Keefe cuts through the smoke and mirrors of this family’s history. Now I know not only who they are, but that their story was hidden by design. The immigrant story is familiar, but the lack of respect for the mores and norms of their new country stands out. Arthur Sackler, the oldest of three brothers (all had med So many times at the Met or Smithsonian, I’ve wondered: who are these Sacklers? I never took the time to look them up, so the source of their wealth was a surprise to me. Patrick Radden Keefe cuts through the smoke and mirrors of this family’s history. Now I know not only who they are, but that their story was hidden by design. The immigrant story is familiar, but the lack of respect for the mores and norms of their new country stands out. Arthur Sackler, the oldest of three brothers (all had medical degrees), worked at Creedmoor Hospital and moonlighted in medical publishing. He succeeded in owning William Douglas McAdams, his employer, that produced professional journals for physicians. He pioneered the field of marketing to medical professionals by publications and providing speakers and conferences. He also owned a competing firm (where he kept his ownership and affiliation secret) which allowed an echo chamber to the benefit of drugs he had a financial interest in. A friend at the FDA in the 1950’s helped. These and other elements resulted in his making a fortune from Valium and Librium. In the meanwhile Arthur started the family tradition of giving to art and educational institutions. While he wanted name recognition he shunned the openings and galas that usually celebrate donors. Arthur was instrumental in founding Purdue Pharma where his brothers carried on Arthur’s methods of disseminating authoritative sounding information, hiding ownership and control and making donations while shunning ceremonials. By the time the FDA realized Purdue was marketing OxyCotin without approval, the horse was out to the barn. Purdue and its lawyers said it wasn’t new drug, just the repackaging of an approved drug. Given its widespread use, and the positive press (guess how this was engineered) for its role in pain management, and most likely some skillful lawyering, the family skated. Throughout the book you see the family’s extraordinary lawyers help them avoid responsibility for the growth of opioid addiction and death. While the family says it knows nothing of the damage caused by their drug, the evidence that they do is overwhelming. The 2007/8 US District Court of VA and the multi-state (tobacco style) 2018 litigation had piles of evidence that: sales reps were encouraged to visit pill mills to get more sales; when a doctor was being investigated by one state Purdue directed its representative to visit him in another; pharmacists reported individual doctors overprescribing without any company response; Purdue touted is 12 hour dosage (which accompanies a non-addictive drug) when the company knew its relief lasted 8 hours, and of course – it hid the many, many reports of deaths and addictions. Both the 2007/8 Federal and the 2018 multi-state cases let the Sacklers off. The 2008 case, after an exhaustive investigation, ended up in the office of the US Deputy Attorney who was told to “reign in” the prosecutors of Western District of Virginia. When US Attorney (of WDVA), John Brownlee, refused to back down on the charges, he was fired and the new appointee filed what might look good to the general public, but was in reality a slap on the wrist. The 2018 case had even more damaging evidence. It ended up with a bankruptcy judge selected by the Sacklers. He stripped the opinion of the court, and awarded Purdue Pharma to the government as a fine and dropped all charges against the Sacklers. They walked away with the $10-12 billion they had looted from Purdue Pharma before the bankruptcy (and surely more from before since they understood they were threatened). This resolution required approval of the US Department of Justice. Of this the author says “The family had long understood the physics of political influence and the value of a well connected fixer.” Approval was given and the Sackler’s walked away with full accounts in Swiss banks. The 2008 and 2018 dispute resolutions, like most corruption, cannot be traced, but the "higher ups" at the times were Bush II and Trump. The family’s entitled attitude comes through. They say they are not responsible for addicts. They certainly are – at the very least for those who died in withdrawal in the 4 hour dosage gap (the 8 hours known to be the pain relief threshold and the 12 hour prescription dosage). Keefe covers the activism of those for whom OxyCotin had life changing misery through loss of a loved one or through their own addiction devastation and difficult recovery. Perhaps the only sentence the family received is the public shaming by these protestors. They provided unique performance art at Sackler funded institutions. They succeeded in "unnaming" many Sackler collections, facilities and medical programs. (Graduates will not have to have their degree from the Sackler Medical College at Tufts University) My review scans the surface of what you will learn about this drug and the family that made a fortune (now safely stuffed away in Swiss banks) off of it if you read this book. The book is written so that you can understand the complex legal issues. Keefe is engaging with a good sense of the people he is writing about.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jeanette

    Thorough. Researched. But to me this was the opposite of a book I couldn't put down. Weary of hearing about their womanizing lives is putting it mildly. Name, place and prestige drop of nearly infinitive variety. NYC brand in predominance. Sackler brilliance and logic. Philanthropy originated in forests of marketing. Coupled with duplicitous manevolence. I could do a very long review but I will not. Several points of analogy the author makes I would solidly disagree with in an answering argument. Thorough. Researched. But to me this was the opposite of a book I couldn't put down. Weary of hearing about their womanizing lives is putting it mildly. Name, place and prestige drop of nearly infinitive variety. NYC brand in predominance. Sackler brilliance and logic. Philanthropy originated in forests of marketing. Coupled with duplicitous manevolence. I could do a very long review but I will not. Several points of analogy the author makes I would solidly disagree with in an answering argument. I think a comparison to the media of the last decade or two would be more apt than the products he denotes. "Our values" as defined in public marketing duplicity and definitions all around just as faulty as that comparison too. He's exact in data. And unequivocal. That I like with this author. Ironic that people will always go after and desire any respite from pain. Despite costs. Still will. Sacklers are guilty but 1000's of others, including doctors are just as culpable. As is most advertising hype of lies in general. And we see them on media, tv RX ads every day. In repeating and repeating. Not to speak of the politico. I just find some other reviews of this super strange. Condemnation belongs way further into government all the way down to the medicine beggars for every earthly twinge. This same disgust is what I experienced when I worked in pharmacy during my 20's and watched as Valium took over. I left the field completely because it always takes two or three in a perverse tango. That's why this could happen. And it will again. Corrupt overseers are rich as well as the manufacturers are. All the way down the long lines to easy "empathetic" fixes in medicine's sphere.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    Incredible. I have so many thoughts.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    Phew. 4.5 rounded down

  26. 5 out of 5

    Skip

    Wow. A meticulously researched profile of a private family, whose pharma company made billions of dollars by aggressive marketing tactics for Valium and then Oxycodone. Initially, an immigrant family, the three sons built a juggernaut and they become patrons of art, education, philanthropy in the U.S. and Europe. The family claimed it was not involved in the management of the company, but this was proven wrong again and again by Keefe. The marketing claimed that the pill's shell allowed for time Wow. A meticulously researched profile of a private family, whose pharma company made billions of dollars by aggressive marketing tactics for Valium and then Oxycodone. Initially, an immigrant family, the three sons built a juggernaut and they become patrons of art, education, philanthropy in the U.S. and Europe. The family claimed it was not involved in the management of the company, but this was proven wrong again and again by Keefe. The marketing claimed that the pill's shell allowed for time release of the pain relief, but the claim that 12-hour relief was possible was belied by varying strengths of the pill, necessary as users built resistance. Abusers crushed the pills, and the company defended itself by claiming that people were the problem -- that their product was not inherently additive. Eventually, class action lawsuits were filed and state attorney generals sued the company and family. A bit long, but very interesting reading. 4.5 stars.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Siria

    An engrossing and appalling story of greed, untrammelled wealth, corporate corruption, and the continual failure of institutional and judicial oversight. The portrait Patrick Radden Keefe paints of the Sackler clan—the extended family whose deliberate shilling first of Valium and then of Oxycontin—led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of lives destroyed is a damning one. The Sacklers come across as the Big Pharma version of the Trumps—every bit as tacky, greedy, self-deluded, and s An engrossing and appalling story of greed, untrammelled wealth, corporate corruption, and the continual failure of institutional and judicial oversight. The portrait Patrick Radden Keefe paints of the Sackler clan—the extended family whose deliberate shilling first of Valium and then of Oxycontin—led to hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of lives destroyed is a damning one. The Sacklers come across as the Big Pharma version of the Trumps—every bit as tacky, greedy, self-deluded, and sociopathic, just better at earning college degrees.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kyle Erickson

    Eye-opening. Enlightening. Incredibly well researched. The Sacklers are insanely wealthy and play a large part in America's opioid crisis. This book is consistently engaging and revelatory, without a doubt my favorite non-fiction read this year so far. Recently, the Sacklers were in a court, and the judge cut through their stream of bullshit to say, "Watching you testify makes my blood boil. I can't fathom there is another family in America more evil than yours." A must-read in my book. Eye-opening. Enlightening. Incredibly well researched. The Sacklers are insanely wealthy and play a large part in America's opioid crisis. This book is consistently engaging and revelatory, without a doubt my favorite non-fiction read this year so far. Recently, the Sacklers were in a court, and the judge cut through their stream of bullshit to say, "Watching you testify makes my blood boil. I can't fathom there is another family in America more evil than yours." A must-read in my book.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Jill Hutchinson

    You may not be familiar with the name Sackler but I bet you know about Purdue Pharma and the development and sale of OxyContin which was one of the tap root medications to fuel the drug addiction problem. The Sackler's, a family of doctors, first made their huge fortune through the development of Valium, and then decided to go into pain relief. They assured the FDA and other governing public health entities that it was non-addictive and supported this argument with false and misleading informatio You may not be familiar with the name Sackler but I bet you know about Purdue Pharma and the development and sale of OxyContin which was one of the tap root medications to fuel the drug addiction problem. The Sackler's, a family of doctors, first made their huge fortune through the development of Valium, and then decided to go into pain relief. They assured the FDA and other governing public health entities that it was non-addictive and supported this argument with false and misleading information and inconclusive testing and data. There is no doubt that OxyContin relieved pain and was a God-send to chronic pain sufferers and of course it was extremely addictive. Patients needed stronger and more frequent doses as they grew dependent. And then they started to die. The Sacklers must be one of the most selfish and unfeeling family that ever preyed on public. They were making billions of dollars that went straight to them as Purdue Pharma was privately owned and never went public. They were only interested in making money and made huge donations to various universities and art museums, with the requirement that their name was placed on a gallery, collection, scholarship, etc. Once the law suits began, the Sacklers never admitted that the drug was addictive, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. They had the best lawyers available and ducked out of most of the legal actions. The author tells us how that was possible and it makes an amazing story of greed. Even though the final sections move a little slowly during the multiple legal actions, I still highly recommend this book.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sandy

    A staggering story, well written & exhaustively researched. I don't know what's more disturbing....the avarice & arrogance of the Sackler family or the system that refused to hold them to account. And after more than a decade of litigation, it's still not over. In today's news: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-577... After reading the excellent Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland , Keefe became my go-to guy for non-fiction & once again, he kept me reading into the A staggering story, well written & exhaustively researched. I don't know what's more disturbing....the avarice & arrogance of the Sackler family or the system that refused to hold them to account. And after more than a decade of litigation, it's still not over. In today's news: https://www.bbc.com/news/business-577... After reading the excellent Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland , Keefe became my go-to guy for non-fiction & once again, he kept me reading into the wee hours.

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