Empire of Pain
Patrick Radden Keefe
Winner of the 2021 Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction
Shortlisted for the 2021 Financial Times/McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award
One of Barack Obama’s Favorite Books of 2021
The gripping and shocking story of three generations of the Sackler family and their roles in the stories of Valium, OxyContin and the opioid crisis.
‘Jaw-dropping . . . Beggars belief’ Sunday Times
‘You feel almost guilty for enjoying it so much’ The Times
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 in the arts and the 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 – an international epidemic of drug addiction which has killed nearly half a million people.
In this masterpiece of narrative reporting and writing, award-winning journalist and host of the Wind of Change podcast Patrick Radden Keefe exhaustively documents the jaw-dropping and ferociously compelling reality. Empire of Pain is the story of a dynasty: a parable of twenty-first-century greed.
There are so many "they did what?" moments in this book, when your jaw practically hits the page * Sunday Times * This is no dense medical tome, but a page-turner with a villainous family to rival the Roys in Succession, and one where every chapter ends with the perfect bombshell. * Esquire * The story of the Sacklers and OxyContin is a parable of the modern era of philanthropy being deployed to burnish the reputations of financiers and entrepreneurs . . . [A] tour-de-force * Financial Times * Put simply, this book will make your blood boil . . . a devastating portrait of a family consumed by greed and unwilling to take the slightest responsibility or show the least sympathy for what it wrought . . . a highly readable and disturbing narrative. -- John Carreyrou, author of Bad Blood * New York Times Book Review * An engrossing (and frequently enraging) tale of striving, secrecy and self-delusion . . . Even when detailing the most sordid episodes, Keefe's narrative voice is calm and admirably restrained, allowing his prodigious reporting to speak for itself. His portrait of the family is all the more damning for its stark lucidity. -- Jennifer Szalai * New York Times * A true tragedy in multiple acts. It is the story of a family that lost its moorings and its morals . . . Written with novelistic family-dynasty and family-dynamic sweep, Empire of Pain is a pharmaceutical Forsythe Saga, a book that in its way is addictive, with a page-turning forward momentum. -- David M. Shribman * Boston Globe * Explosive . . . Keefe marshals a large pile of evidence and deploys it with prosecutorial precision . . . Keefe is a gifted storyteller who excels at capturing personalities. * Washington Post * An air-tight indictment of the family behind the opioid crisis . . . [an] impressive expose -- Harriet Ryan * Los Angeles Times * A damning portrait of the Sacklers, the billionaire clan behind the OxyContin epidemic . . . [Keefe] has a knack for crafting lucid, readable descriptions of the sort of arcane business arrangements the Sacklers favored. -- Laura Miller * Slate * Keefe has a way of making the inaccessible incredibly digestible, of morphing complex stories into page-turning thrillers, and he's done it again with Empire of Pain . . . A scathing - but meticulously reported - takedown of the extended family behind OxyContin. It's equal parts juicy society gossip and historical record of how they built their dynasty and eventually pushed Oxy onto the market. -- Seija Rankin * Entertainment Weekly *
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