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The Family That Built an Empire of Pain

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The Family That Built an Empire of Pain

The New Yorker,

5 min read
5 take-aways
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What's inside?

Meet the Sacklers, the high-profile family that owns the drug company that caused the opioid epidemic.

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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.


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.

The active ingredient is oxycodone, a powerful opioid. Doctors previously were reluctant to prescribe strong opioids, except for cancer pain or palliative care, because...

About the Author

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

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