“Empire of Pain” is a nonfiction book by Patrick Radden Keefe that examines the history of the Sackler family and their involvement in the opioid crisis. The Sacklers are a wealthy family that made their fortune from Purdue Pharma, the company that developed and marketed OxyContin, a highly addictive prescription painkiller that has been linked to the deaths of thousands of people.
The book begins by tracing the history of the Sackler family, starting with their humble beginnings as immigrant pharmacists in Brooklyn. The family’s fortune began to grow in the 1950s and 1960s, when they started to develop new pharmaceuticals and build relationships with doctors and hospitals. The family’s success continued with the launch of OxyContin in the 1990s, which quickly became a blockbuster drug and made the family billions of dollars.
However, as the book reveals, the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma were aware of the addictive nature of OxyContin and took steps to downplay the drug’s risks and aggressively market it to doctors and patients. The book details the company’s marketing tactics, including its aggressive sales force and its use of paid speakers and sponsored events, which helped to fuel the opioid epidemic.
The book also explores the legal and regulatory actions taken against Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers, including a series of lawsuits and settlements. The book highlights the ethical and legal issues surrounding the pharmaceutical industry and its role in the opioid crisis, as well as the broader social and economic factors that contributed to the epidemic.
Overall, “Empire of Pain” is a well-researched and compelling book that sheds light on a complex and troubling issue. The book provides a detailed and nuanced account of the Sackler family and their involvement in the opioid crisis, drawing on extensive research and interviews with key players in the story. The book also offers broader insights into the pharmaceutical industry, the regulatory environment, and the social and economic factors that contribute to public health crises.
One of the key strengths of the book is its ability to humanize the story of the opioid epidemic. By focusing on the Sackler family and their motivations and actions, the book provides a compelling narrative that helps readers understand the complex issues at play. The book also draws attention to the human toll of the crisis, including the personal stories of people who have been affected by addiction and the families and communities that have been devastated by the epidemic.
Another strength of the book is its thoroughness and attention to detail. Keefe has clearly done extensive research and has conducted numerous interviews with key players in the story. The book is filled with detailed accounts of meetings, conversations, and events, which help to provide a rich and nuanced understanding of the issue.
However, some readers may find the book to be overly detailed and at times difficult to follow. The book covers a wide range of topics and events, and the narrative can sometimes feel disjointed or overwhelming. Additionally, some readers may find the book to be overly critical of the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma, without fully exploring the broader societal and systemic factors that contributed to the crisis.
Overall, “Empire of Pain” is a powerful and important book that offers a detailed and compelling account of the opioid epidemic and the role played by the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma. The book raises important questions about the pharmaceutical industry and its regulation, and it underscores the need for greater awareness and action to address the ongoing crisis.