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Empire of Pain

Empire of Pain

The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty

Book - 2021 | First edition
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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 source of the family fortune was vague, however, until it emerged that the Sackler's 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"-- Provided by publisher.
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 the sciences. The source of the family fortune was vague, however, until it emerged that the Sacklers were responsible for making and marketing a blockbuster painkiller that was the catalyst for the opioid crisis. Empire of Pain begins with the story of three doctor brothers, Raymond, Mortimer and the incalculably energetic Arthur, who weathered the poverty of the Great Depression and appalling anti-Semitism. Working at a barbaric mental institution, Arthur saw a better way and conducted groundbreaking research into drug treatments. He also had a genius for marketing, especially for pharmaceuticals, and bought a small ad firm. Arthur devised the marketing for Valium, and built the first great Sackler fortune. He purchased a drug manufacturer, Purdue Frederick, which would be run by Raymond and Mortimer. The brothers began collecting art, and wives, and grand residences in exotic locales. Their children and grandchildren grew up in luxury. Forty years later, Raymond's son Richard ran the family-owned Purdue. The template Arthur Sackler created to sell Valium-co-opting doctors, influencing the FDA, downplaying the drug's addictiveness-was employed to launch a far more potent product: OxyContin. The drug went on to generate some thirty-five billion dollars in revenue, and to launch a public health crisis in which hundreds of thousands would die.
This is the saga of three generations of a single family and the mark they would leave on the world, a tale that moves from the bustling streets of early twentieth-century Brooklyn to the seaside palaces of Greenwich, Connecticut, and Cap d'Antibes to the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. Empire of Pain chronicles the multiple investigations of the Sacklers and their company, and the scorched-earth legal tactics that the family has used to evade accountability. The history of the Sackler dynasty is rife with drama-baroque personal lives; bitter disputes over estates; fistfights in boardrooms; glittering art collections; Machiavellian courtroom maneuvers; and the calculated use of money to burnish reputations and crush the less powerful. Empire of Pain is a masterpiece of narrative reporting and writing, exhaustively documented and ferociously compelling. It is a portrait of the excesses of America's second Gilded Age, a study of impunity among the super elite and a relentless investigation of the naked greed and indifference to human suffering that built one of the world's great fortunes. -- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York : Doubleday, [2021]
Edition: First edition
ISBN: 9780385545686
0385545681
Call Number: 929.20973 K261e 2021
Characteristics: xii, 535 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm

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okbookgirl
May 16, 2021

I admired this author's previous book ("Say Nothing") so much, that I wondered if he could pull off such excellent detailed investigative reporting and smooth narrative writing again. The answer is 'yes'. Keefe's work in investigating and documenting the history of the slippery Sackler family is brilliant.

Keefe documents several generations of Sacklers who came to their immense wealth through the manufacturing, marketing and sale of pharmaceuticals. He details the start of their business with selling laxatives and some relatively benign drugs. This leads to the sale of Valium and eventually to the ruthless and relentless marketing of OxyContin (which caused the ongoing catastrophe of opioid deaths and much misery in many families, communities and countries).

The Sackler family is almost unbelievably greedy. Yes, their name is also well-known for their philanthropy, especially in the visual arts. But the manoeuvres the Sacklers made around government regulation and legal actions against their company are terrible. Many institutions have changed the signage or even returned the gifts from the Sacklers, nudged toward these decisions by activists protesting the financial "origin" of these acquisitions or programmes.

"Empire of Pain" is very well researched and documented. But, it reads smoothly as the references are all in an appendix, by page number. This really helps the reader keep "the flow" of this somewhat complicated story (which covers a number of legal processes).

If you are like me, once you start reading this book you will want to keep reading. But, you will have to put it down at certain points because you will be so angry at how these people manoeuvred around legitimate legal enquiries, and avoided taking responsibility for the misery they helped cause.

This is an important book that I would highly recommend whether you like to read about white collar crime, sagas of 'the rich and famous', or want to understand just how we came to the terrible situations in many, many communities with a 'pandemic' of opioid addictions and deaths.

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