Book Review: Patrick Radden Keefe ~ Empire of Pain: The secret history of the Sackler Dynasty (2021)

The concept of legal drug-pushing has been a feature of USA medicine for at least thirty years. Prescription drugs are allegedly tightly controlled but Keefe demonstrates the system was perverted. The corruption was orchestrated by the Sackler Family but other pharmaceutical companies joined in. The net result was hundreds of thousands of deaths from opioid abuse. There were 76,000 deaths in 2021.1

Federal and state government was lobbied with savage meticulous energy,

Purdue [Sackler’s business] and other drug companies…spent over $700 million between 2006 and 2015 on lobbying in Washington and in all fifty states.2

They spent huge amounts of money accessing doctors so they’d prescribe OxyContin. They lied about the strength and addictive power of this drug and the drug was prescribed as a long-term ‘solution’ to pain relief. OxyContin is twice as strong as heroin.

The Sackler’s rewarded top prescribers one of whom was Walter Jacobs. “He often worked only three days a week. Nevertheless, in five years, he prescribed more than 347,000 pills of Purdue opioids.”3

The Sackler family became immensely wealthy and took evasive action when questions were asked. This was entirely successful. Despite mountains of proof they weren’t found guilty of anything more than technical offences. They paid huge fines and walked free.

This is a tremendous story written by a master in the craft. A page turner.


1 Drug Overdose Deaths in the U.S. Top 100,000 Annually (

2 Keefe p. 346  

3 ibid p.384 

This entry was posted in Economics, Health, Science and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.