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If you’re a true crime enthusiast or a fan of investigative journalism, you won’t want to miss Patrick Radden Keefe’s audiobook Empire of Pain. This audiobook review will delve into the captivating story of the Sackler family, one of the wealthiest and most controversial dynasties in America, and their role in the opioid crisis.

As a staff writer at The New Yorker, Keefe’s meticulous research and engaging writing style have earned him critical acclaim. In Empire of Pain, he exposes the Sackler family’s dark legacy, revealing internal documents and testimonies that shed light on their alleged role in perpetuating the opioid epidemic that has claimed thousands of lives.

This audiobook provides a comprehensive look at the pharmaceutical industry, tracing the origins and influence of the Sackler family. Additionally, Keefe recounts his investigative journey in uncovering the Sackler family’s secrets and cover-ups, providing readers with a behind-the-scenes look at the research process.

Join us as we explore the deadly consequences of the OxyContin scandal and the impact of Empire of Pain on public perception and the legal action taken against the Sackler family.

If you’re ready to dive into an audiobook that uncovers the truth about one of the pharmaceutical industry’s most notorious families, read on to discover our in-depth overview of Empire of Pain.

Introduction to Empire of Pain

Empire of Pain is an audiobook that provides a detailed and comprehensive account of the Sackler family’s role in the opioid crisis. Written by Patrick Radden Keefe, an investigative journalist and author, the audiobook takes an in-depth look at the rise of the Sackler dynasty and the development of their pharmaceutical empire, culminating in the creation and marketing of OxyContin.

Radden Keefe brings to light the family’s alleged involvement in pushing the drug to doctors, downplaying its addictive potential, and contributing to the opioid epidemic that has ravaged American communities. By weaving together extensive research, interviews, and internal documents, Empire of Pain provides a haunting and thought-provoking account of one of the most significant public health crises of our time.

Unveiling the Sackler Dynasty

The Sackler family, renowned for their philanthropic activities and contributions, are known to have established themselves as dominant players in the pharmaceutical industry. Their ascent to power began in the mid-20th century, when brothers Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond Sackler acquired Purdue Pharma. The company’s first breakthrough product was a painkiller called OxyContin, which would later become infamous for its role in the opioid epidemic that shook the United States. The Sackler family reportedly profited immensely from the sale of OxyContin, which was marketed aggressively despite warning signs about its addictive properties.

In addition to Purdue Pharma, the Sacklers also had stakes in other pharmaceutical companies, notably Mundipharma and Napp Pharmaceuticals. They have been associated with a number of medical achievements, receiving acclaim for their work in areas such as cancer and psychiatry. However, their legacy is inextricably linked to the opioid crisis, which is estimated to have claimed over half a million lives in the US alone.

“The Sacklers have widely been perceived as a family that became billionaires through supporting science and art institutions… But the family’s fortune was made through the sale of OxyContin, a painkiller that was aggressively marketed to doctors and which experts say helped kick off the opioid epidemic.”

The above statement is corroborated to some extent by internal Purdue Pharma documents that were made public in the course of legal proceedings. The documents reveal that Purdue Pharma was fully aware of the addictive nature of OxyContin, but chose to downplay the risks in order to increase sales. Furthermore, investigations have shown that the Sacklers took steps to distance themselves from the negative consequences of the opioid crisis, reportedly seeking shelter in accounts and trusts based overseas. These revelations have sparked outrage and prompted legal action against the Sackler family.

The Sacklers’ Influence in the Pharmaceutical Industry

The Sackler family’s influence extends beyond Purdue Pharma and the opioid crisis. They have been described as pioneers of modern pharmaceutical marketing, having played a key role in promoting the idea of “blockbuster drugs” that could generate billions of dollars in revenue. According to The New Yorker journalist Patrick Radden Keefe, the Sacklers’ business practices were characterized by an unrelenting focus on profit, which at times came at the expense of ethical and moral considerations.

Despite growing public scrutiny and backlash, the Sacklers continue to be associated with some of the most prestigious institutions in the world of science and arts, from the Louvre Museum in Paris to Harvard University. This has prompted heated debates about the ethics of accepting donations from sources with questionable pasts, particularly within the context of healthcare and addiction.

The OxyContin Scandal

The OxyContin scandal is the central focus of Patrick Radden Keefe’s audiobook Empire of Pain. Keefe delves into the significant impact that Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, had on individuals, communities, and the healthcare system. The opioid crisis has been one of the most significant public health issues of modern times, and the OxyContin scandal has played a pivotal role in contributing to the crisis.

In the audiobook, Keefe meticulously details how Purdue Pharma, led by the Sackler family, marketed OxyContin aggressively as a powerful painkiller with minimal risks of addiction. The company marketed OxyContin to doctors, downplaying the risks of addiction and manipulating data to increase prescriptions. This resulted in widespread misuse, addiction, and even overdose deaths.

The Role of Purdue Pharma

Purdue Pharma’s saturation of the market with OxyContin and its aggressive marketing tactics contributed significantly to the opioid crisis. The company’s unethical practices, such as paying doctors to prescribe OxyContin, created an addiction epidemic.

Statistics Impact
From 1999 to 2019, 247,000 Americans died from overdoses involving prescription opioids. This has led to a significant increase in opioid-related deaths and addiction cases throughout the US.
Purdue Pharma agreed to pay $8 billion to settle federal criminal charges. However, this amount has been criticized as insufficient to address the damage caused by the company’s actions.

OxyContin and Purdue Pharma are now synonymous with the opioid crisis, which has had a devastating impact on individuals, families, and entire communities. Keefe’s audiobook provides a comprehensive and detailed exploration of the scandal, casting much-needed light on the issue and its implications.

“The opioid crisis is not an unavoidable plague, but the foreseeable result of a rapacious and indifferent pharmaceutical industry.” – Empire of Pain

Patrick Radden Keefe’s Investigative Journey

In Empire of Pain, Patrick Radden Keefe presents a gripping and well-documented account of the Sackler family’s role in the opioid crisis. Keefe’s investigative journalism methodology was thorough and relied heavily on primary sources, including internal documents and interviews with individuals close to the family and the pharmaceutical industry. His research process involved extensive fact-checking and cross-referencing to ensure accuracy and credibility.

Keefe’s commitment to uncovering the truth behind the Sackler family’s actions is made clear in Empire of Pain’s meticulous detail. He uncovers the cover-up of the family’s involvement in the opioid epidemic, revealing their alleged targeting of vulnerable communities and misleading of medical professionals. By doing so, Keefe shows the power of investigative journalism in exposing crucial truths.

The Dark Secrets Uncovered

Empire of Pain delves deep into the Sackler family secrets, revealing the cover-up and internal documents that allegedly implicate them in the opioid crisis. Patrick Radden Keefe’s investigative journey uncovered a plethora of evidence, including memos, emails, and court documents, that reveal the Sacklers’ involvement in the aggressive marketing and distribution of OxyContin.

“In 2004, Richard Sackler, one of Purdue Pharma’s executives and a son of one of its founders, noted in an email: ‘Abusers die, well that is the choice they made'”.

The family’s obsession with profits is evident in the internal documents, which reveal how they pushed for higher dosages of the drug, circumvented regulations, and ignored the growing evidence of OxyContin’s addictive nature and deadly consequences.

As public outrage and legal scrutiny intensified, the Sacklers have attempted to conceal their role in the opioid crisis. The internal documents and testimonies presented in Empire of Pain shed light on the alleged cover-up, exposing the family’s attempts to deny and downplay the scale of the epidemic.

Impact and Consequences

The publication of Empire of Pain has had far-reaching consequences, both in terms of public perception and legal ramifications for the Sackler family. Prior to the audiobook’s release, the Sacklers had been viewed as a prominent and respected family, but the explosive revelations contained within Empire of Pain have challenged this perception and brought their alleged role in the opioid crisis to light.

The public outcry following the release of Empire of Pain has been significant, with many individuals and organizations calling for accountability and justice. In response, the Sackler family has faced numerous legal battles and investigations, with some facing criminal charges and others settling lawsuits for billions of dollars.

“The revelations contained within Patrick Radden Keefe’s Empire of Pain have challenged the public’s perception of the Sackler family and brought their alleged role in the opioid crisis to light.”

While the legal ramifications and public perception of the Sackler family remain a contentious issue, the release of Empire of Pain has sparked meaningful conversations and a call for greater accountability within the pharmaceutical industry.

Critical Reception and Controversies

The release of Empire of Pain has generated a flurry of book reviews and publicity. While some critics praise Patrick Radden Keefe’s investigative journalism and meticulous research, others have raised concerns about the book’s approach and the author’s conclusions.

“Empire of Pain is a triumph of investigative reporting, a definitive and timely account of the Sackler family’s role in the opioid crisis. Keefe’s prose is lucid and gripping, and his attention to detail is impressive. This is a must-read for anyone grappling with the social, political, and economic fallout of the crisis.” – The New York Times

“While Radden Keefe certainly presents compelling evidence against the Sacklers and their company, his book falls short of providing a clear path forward in addressing the opioid crisis. Furthermore, his portrayal of the Sacklers verges on demonization, leaving little room for nuance or complexity in their characters or motives.” – The Guardian

In addition to criticisms about the content of the book, Empire of Pain has also been the subject of controversies surrounding its publication and promotion. Questions have been raised about the involvement of outside groups in funding and supporting the book’s release, as well as allegations of censorship and pressure on journalists.

Empire of Pain as an Audiobook

Empire of Pain is not only a gripping read but also an enthralling listen. As an audiobook, it offers a unique way to experience Patrick Radden Keefe’s incredible storytelling skills, bringing the characters and events to life in a whole new way.

The audiobook format provides a hands-free listening experience, allowing readers to immerse themselves fully in the story without having to hold a physical book. This feature makes it an ideal option for those who enjoy multitasking while listening to books.

Moreover, the narration by Patrick Radden Keefe himself is impeccable, conveying the emotions and intensity of the story with expertise. His clear and concise articulation is an added bonus, making it easy for listeners to follow the plot without any confusion.

The production quality of the audiobook is also exceptional, creating an immersive experience for listeners. From the sound effects to the music, every detail is thoughtfully chosen and executed to create an impactful listening experience.

audiobook format

In conclusion, Empire of Pain, as an audiobook, is a must-listen for anyone interested in the Sackler family saga and the opioid crisis. The narration, production quality, and overall listening experience set a high bar for future audiobooks in the genre.


Empire of Pain is a haunting audiobook that sheds light on the tragedy of the opioid crisis and the role played by the Sackler family in perpetuating it. Patrick Radden Keefe’s meticulous investigative journalism has uncovered the darkest secrets of the Sackler dynasty, revealing their ruthless pursuit of profit at the expense of human lives.

Through this audiobook, listeners can trace the rise of the Sackler family in the pharmaceutical industry and their creation of OxyContin, which became a potent and addictive drug that devastated countless lives. Keefe’s extensive research and use of internal documents and testimonies from individuals close to the Sacklers reveal a disturbing cover-up and lies perpetuated by the family.

Empire of Pain provides a powerful and compelling account of the opioid crisis and the extent to which greed and corporate power can wreak havoc on individuals and society as a whole. The publication of this audiobook has sparked global outrage and led to legal action being taken against the Sackler family.

As we reflect on the revelations uncovered by this audiobook, it is clear that the Sackler family’s legacy is one of immense pain and suffering. As a society, we must continue to hold those responsible accountable for their actions, and strive to prevent such tragedies from occurring again in the future.

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