The Hard Sell: Crime and Punishment at an Opioid Startup

Doubleday. Jan. 2022. 288p. ISBN 9780385544900. $28.95. CRIME
An account of the inner workings of a pharmaceutical company could have been dull in the hands of another author, but Hughes (Literary Brooklyn) brings it to life beautifully. He weaves together a vivid cast of characters—doctors, sales reps, and executives—with key commentary illustrating the connections between a relatively small drug company named Insys Therapeutics and the broader opiate epidemic. As compelling as a true crime documentary, the book details Insys’s relentless quest to corner the drug market with its version of fentanyl and chronicles the resulting federal trial; in 2019, Insys founder John Kapoor and several executives were convicted of bribing doctors to prescribe the addictive drug Subsys. Even readers with little background on the topic will find themselves riveted by the narrative—and disgusted by the tactics and mindset of Kapoor and his colleagues. Hughes perfectly captures the human impact of pharmaceutical sales and corporate greed.
VERDICT Anyone who picks up this title will be left reflecting on how the U.S. medical system and drug companies have recklessly destroyed countless lives. A book readers will not soon forget.
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