Book Reviews

Book Review – Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe

Review by
G. Robert Frazier

New Yorker staff writer Patrick Radden Keefe’s exhaustive research for Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty (18 hours) makes him the natural choice to narrate his own audiobook. Keefe knows exactly which points to stress for listeners of this story, which he calls “the taproot of the opioid epidemic” in America—not that added emphasis is really needed, as the book’s content is shocking enough.

In jaw-dropping detail, Keefe recounts the greed, deception and corruption at the heart of the Sackler family’s multigenerational quest for wealth and social status.. Renowned for their philanthropy, the Sacklers built their fortune through the pharmaceutical industry in the 1940s and ’50s, making calculated moves in medical advertising and with the Food and Drug Administration. Keefe brilliantly traces the Sacklers’ path toward developing controversial pharmaceutical products such as the anti-anxiety medicine Valium and the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin via their company, Purdue Pharma.

The 18-plus hours that it takes to listen to this mind-blowing history may seem intimidating at first, but Keefe’s masterful storytelling makes it worth every minute.

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