Summary of The Family That Built an Empire of Pain

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The Family That Built an Empire of Pain summary


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Award-winning New Yorker writer Patrick Radden Keefe reveals the astonishing secret behind the wealthy Sackler family’s fortune. It’s a cautionary tale of an unethical drug company with a slick marketing campaign that stretched to outright deception. Worse, it’s about the well-meaning doctors and government agencies that believed the drug company and the millions of patients who started out in pain and ended up so much worse off. It also provides fresh and horrifying insights into America’s opioid addiction. getAbstract recommends Keefe’s chronicle to everyone with an interest in public health.

In this summary, you will learn

  • How Purdue Pharma single-handedly changed opioid prescribing practices;
  • How OxyContin could become addictive, even when used as directed; and
  • Why the Sackler family is largely responsible for the opioid epidemic.

About the Author

  Patrick Radden Keefe is an award-winning staff writer at The New Yorker and has been contributing since 2006.



The high-profile Sackler family gives generously to numerous institutions but rarely admits to any involvement with the company that made the Sackler fortune. In 1952, physician brothers Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler bought the drug company that would become Purdue Pharma. Purdue makes OxyContin, which has earned $35 billion since 1995.

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