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Empire of Pain
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Learn the key ideas of the book by Patrick Radden Keefe

Empire of Pain

The controversial story of the infamous Sackler empire

In his book, Empire of Pain, Patrick Radden Keefe tells us about the background to the opioid crisis in the United States. Through the long history of the Sackler family, the author reveals the origin of the widespread circulation of these drugs, and explains the causes of an ongoing tragedy that is still affecting many families even today.

Empire of Pain
Read in 16 min.
Listen in 20 min.
IDEA CHIAVE 1/12

The Sacklers are one of the richest families in the United States, and owe their fortune to the sale of Oxycontin, a powerful analgesic prescribed for chronic pain

The Sacklers are a famous New York dynasty, who, just a few years ago, were listed in Forbes magazine as one of the richest families in America. They are wealthier than the Rockefellers or the Bushes, and have financed museums, universities and clinics all over the world. Many cultural and medical centres are named after the famous family; their name is everywhere in New York, and is associated with some of America’s most prestigious institutions. There are scholarships named after them, and coveted prizes on which the famous family name is engraved, but the Sacklers prefer not to discuss the origins of their immense fortune. Indeed, it can be said that when the subject comes up, they tend to quickly disappear. Purdue Frederick, the largest company they own, and their main source of income, is not linked to them directly. On the official company website, you will find no trace of the name Sackler, even though it is 100% Sackler owned and founded, and the family is its main driving force.

In 1996, Purdue launched a drug that was to have a devastating impact on an enormous number of Americans. The drug is called OxyContin, a powerful analgesic prescribed for cases of chronic pain, and over the years its sales earned the company thirty-five billion dollars. As you can imagine, it was one of the biggest commercial successes in the history of the pharmaceutical industry. It also caused an opioid epidemic that reached every corner of the United States. According to the CDC (the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a US national public health agency) in the twenty-five years following the launch of Oxycontin, approximately 450,000 Americans died of overdoses related to opioid use.

  

The key ideas of "Empire of Pain"

01.
The Sacklers are one of the richest families in the United States, and owe their fortune to the sale of Oxycontin, a powerful analgesic prescribed for chronic pain
02.
The Sackler empire was founded by Arthur, an ambitious and skilled doctor who was quick understand the power of advertising and to launch himself into promoting his company branded drugs
03.
The aggressive advertising campaigns that pharmaceutical companies carried out in the 1960s attracted the attention of the authorities
04.
Arthur Sackler’s immense wealth enabled him to assume an important role in the world of art and philanthropy
05.
The Sackler brothers, who had always been close in business and as a family, began to drift apart because of a financial deal that left Arthur somewhat displeased
06.
Raymond’s son Richard: and important driving force in the family business
07.
Richard Sackler focussed his efforts on his company and on the treatment of chronic pain
08.
Oxycontin was based on a substance even stronger than morphine, but the adverts described it as safe and suitable for everyone
09.
The dramatic effects of OxyContin began to reveal themselves
10.
Purdue Pharma was investigated by the Justice Department and was forced to pay eight billion dollars in damages
11.
Quotes
12.
Take-home message
 
 
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