Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty

Doubleday. Apr. 2021. 560p. ISBN 9780385545686. $32.50. BIOG
The latest book by award-winning journalist and best-selling author Keefe (Say Nothing) examines how three generations of the Sackler family were able to make billions of dollars in the pharmaceutical industry using a multi-faceted approach pioneered by patriarch Arthur Sackler. Keefe suggests the Sackler business model is: Mass-market a miracle treatment for a common ailment, such as pain; package the cure in the form of pills, such as Valium and OxyContin; make the pills highly addictive; tout scientific evidence about its potential; target marketing campaigns at doctors; develop schemes and incentives for sales representatives and executives to earn huge bonuses; and never take the company public. This gripping account about the rise and fall of the Sackler family and their company Purdue Pharma is filled with scandals and intrigue, fueled by greed and arrogance. Readers may be deeply upset by this story, because Keefe illuminates and emphasizes the Sacklers’ role in the opioid epidemic that caused many accidental deaths worldwide. However, the author’s brilliant writing will keep readers turning the pages.
VERDICT The truth is often disturbing, and this thorough account by Keefe brings new truths to light. In recounting the exploits of the Sackler family, Keefe has written an engaging, unputdownable book.
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