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  • Writer's pictureThe Bossy Bookworm

Review of Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty by Patrick Radden Keefe

Keefe offers an infuriating, fascinating, meticulously researched account of the Sackler family and their collective responsibility for the ongoing, devastating opioid crisis.

I listened to Empire of Pain, Patrick Radden Keefe's exhaustive, revolting, fascinating history of the Sackler family as traced through their modest beginnings, medical degrees, various interpersonal dramas, multiple marriages, handshake deals, amassing of vast wealth, and ruthless promotion of the family's legacy.

While remaining deeply involved in the products, sales and marketing strategies, distribution, and deliberate, years-long obfuscation of the deadly truth about their profitable opioids and medication delivery system, the Sackler family publicly distanced themselves from their pharmaceutical giant Purdue--while making lavish donations of their opioid profits through art, buildings, and other offerings in order to positively promote and spread the Sackler name.

The Sacklers created and ran medical advertising firms to promote their drugs (in groundbreakingly innovative, ruthless ways); exercised significant, unprecedented influence over key decision-makers in the FDA (and provided multiple lucrative jobs at Purdue to those who offered favors to the company while in the government); threatened political influencers in order to protect the company's profits; and ignored the many known indications that the opioids they created, failed to test, and widely distributed (to the tune of billions of dollars in profit a year) caused addiction, destruction, and death on an immense, previously unimaginable scale.

Meticulously researched, always interesting, and consistently infuriating, Empire of Pain is essential nonfiction that details the shocking narcissism, relentless ambition and greed, aggressive delusions, obscene negligence, and dogged maleficence that created our nation's opioid crisis and has led to hundreds of thousands of opioid-related deaths—a number that continues to grow.

Do you have any Bossy thoughts about this book?

Patrick Radden Keefe is a master of compelling, important nonfiction. His book Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland was one of my Six of the Best Nonfiction Books I read that year.

Keefe's upcoming book (to be published June 28) is Rogues: True Stories of Grifters, Killers, Rebels, and Crooks. Stay tuned for that Bossy review.


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