It has taken me awhile to formulate my thoughts about this amazing book Empire of Pain. This nonfiction, written by Patrick Radden Keefe, will not only inform you of three generations of the infamous Sackler family, it will also made you incensed that their company, Purdue Froelich initially, later entitled Purdue Pharma was able to ensnare the public to the drug OxyContin.
The family became enormously wealthy donating to a plethora of institutions including hospitals, universities, museums, etc with always the one caveat, their name must appear on the donation. Across the word the name appeared which would one day be removed because of the insidious practices of their company. They were a family who flew under the radar, one that always remained in the shadows, never affixing their name to any company they owned and clandestinely operated. The family’s beginnings were traced back to Issac Sackler, who in 1904, immigrated to America, He sired three sons, encouraged them to become doctors which they did. He also told them ““What I have given you is the most important thing a father can give… a good name.” Unfortunate, in so many ways, his ensuing progeny didn’t consider his words as they did everything, they could to push their wonder drug OxyContin.
Labeled as an answer to pain sufferers dream, this drug’s side effects were hidden, as undocumented studies were used and often quoted in selling the drug. …and selling they did.
Offering huge benefits to doctors who prescribed the drug and a sales staff that was trained well, the drug became a word wide phenomenon. FDA approved added that additional push to Oxy’s fame and the money poured in making the Sackler’s one of the richest families in our nation. They encouraged their sales staff to target poor areas under the guise of knowing the spots where pain was most prevalent thus hooking countless people onto this drug requiring more and higher dosages to abate their pain.
The Sackler’s knew what was happening. The drug they claimed was nonaddictive was, but as their sales increased and millions were amassed, they didn’t care. Lawsuits that came in, were put down quickly by teams of high-powered attorneys would dig into the past of the plaintiff to disgrace them. The kicker to me was that the company (aka the Sackler’s) said that the people who became addicted were those who had an addiction flaw in their nature, already were addicts, not that the drug made them so.
The thousands who died because of their drug is immeasurable. Parents lost children, couples lost each other, children lost their parents, and the suffering mounted up for the people who were sucked into the Sackler web of deceit and deplorable practices. There is an excellent chance you know someone who perished, or is currently fighting their addiction.
It took many a year for the drug to be understood and although Purdue did try to make a pill that couldn’t be broken down, their initial push of this drug, started many down the path to heroin and morphine.
Thanks to the investigative talent of both the author and others, the Sackler family no longer remains hidden. The very infuriating thing was that they knew the end was coming so they pulled millions out of Purdue Pharma, hid the money in untraceable accounts, and finally declared bankruptcy for Purdue. However, in a turn of their need to be philanthropically recognized many institutions pulled their name from structures as well as refusing future donations. It seems the one good thing that Issac gave his family, they successfully destroyed.
****As a caveat, there is so much money to be had in this industry, that many can be “bought” both in government agencies and legal services. Most concerning of all to me is that drug companies have been indemnified by our government, meaning that they can’t be sued or held accountable for the havoc that might ensue. Makes you wonder does it not? Hopefully the Sackler’s will have a wing in hell with their name over it awaiting their arrival!****
and here’ the author:
Patrick Radden Keefe is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of The Snakehead and Chatter. His work has also appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Slate, New York, and The New York Review of Books. He received the 2014 National Magazine Award for Feature Writing, for his story “A Loaded Gun,” was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Reporting in 2015 and 2016, and is also the recipient of an Eric and Wendy Schmidt Fellowship at the New America Foundation and a Guggenheim Fellowship.