Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe

Brendan’s Alternate Tagline for Empire of Pain:

The Sacklers suck.

Quick synopsis:

The history of the Sackler family, who projected themselves as philanthropists to the world while their painkillers were sending thousands on the road to death. Reminder: they suck.

Fun Fact Non-History People Will Like:

Medical schools (even the fancy ones) previously limited the number of Jewish students allowed in at any given time.

Fun Fact for History Nerds:

An Indiana County had 116 opioid prescriptions per 100 people at one point in the early 2000s. Yes, that is a tremendous amount of painkillers.

My Take on Empire of Pain:

Good public relations can cover up a lot of evil. Great public relations can get your name put all over the good stuff and none of the bad stuff.

This book chronicles the history of the Sackler family when they arrived in the U.S. before World War II and then follows along as they build a pharmaceutical empire. Along the way, they are masters of doing seedy things without every putting their fingerprints on them. They love having their names put on arts donations and the like but avoid owning up to the things history will hopefully remember them for.

How effective were they? Well, do you even remember the major settlement for the opioid crisis? Did you know there was one? How about the name Purdue Pharma? Did you know the Sacklers ran it and pushed oxycodone to such extremes that they are considered the main driver behind the entire epidemic?

If you can’t answer yes to all these questions, then you need to read this book. Prepare for rage.


It is an amazing book. Read this and Say Nothing as soon as possible. Buy it here!

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