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Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty

Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty

The Sackler name adorns the walls of many storied institutions—Harvard, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Oxford, the Louvre. They are one of the richest families in the world, known for their lavish donations to the arts and the sciences. The source of the family fortune was vague, however, until it emerged that the Sacklers were responsible for making and marketing a blockbuster painkiller that was the catalyst for the opioid crisis.

Empire of Pain begins with the story of three doctor brothers, Raymond, Mortimer and the incalculably energetic Arthur, who weathered the poverty of the Great Depression and appalling anti-Semitism. Working at a barbaric mental institution, Arthur saw a better way and conducted groundbreaking research into drug treatments. He also had a genius for marketing, especially for pharmaceuticals, and bought a small ad firm.

Empire of Pain is a masterpiece of narrative reporting and writing, exhaustively documented and ferociously compelling. It is a portrait of the excesses of America’s second Gilded Age, a study of impunity among the super elite and a relentless investigation of the naked greed and indifference to human suffering that built one of the world’s great fortunes.

About the Author

Patrick Radden Keefe

Patrick Radden Keefe is an award-winning staff writer at the New Yorker and the author of Say Nothing: A True Story of Murder and Memory in Northern Ireland, as well as two previous critically-acclaimed books, The Snakehead, and Chatter. He is the recipient of the 2014 National Magazine Award for Feature Writing, was a finalist for the National Magazine Award for Reporting in 2015 and 2016, and also received a Guggenheim Fellowship. He grew up in Boston and now lives in New York He is also the creator and host of the eight-part podcast Wind of Change which is set to be adapted into a TV series for Hulu.