Empire of Pain

Patrick Radden Keefe

2021 Winner

Baillie Gifford Prize

2021 Nominee

Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year

13 April 2021
1086 pages



Winner of the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction
Shortlisted for the Financial Times/McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award
A BBC Radio 4 'Book of the Week'
Shortlisted for the Crime Writers' Association Gold Dagger for Non-Fiction
One of Barack Obama’s Favorite Books

The gripping and shocking story of three generations of the Sackler family and their roles in the stories of Valium, OxyContin and the opioid crisis. Read by the author, Patrick Radden Keefe.

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 in 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 Oxycontin, a blockbuster painkiller that was a catalyst for the opioid crisis – an international epidemic of drug addiction which has killed nearly half a million people.

In this masterpiece of narrative reporting and writing, award-winning journalist and host of the Wind of Change podcast Patrick Radden Keefe exhaustively documents the jaw-dropping and ferociously compelling reality. Empire of Pain is the story of a dynasty: a parable of twenty-first-century greed.

'One of those authors I will always read, no matter what the subject matter, which is why I gobbled up Empire of Pain . . . a masterclass in compelling narrative nonfiction.' – Elizabeth Day, The Guardian '30 Best Summer Reads'

‘You feel almost guilty for enjoying it so much’ – The Times

There are so many "they did what?" moments in this book, when your jaw practically hits the page
This is no dense medical tome, but a page-turner with a villainous family to rival the Roys in Succession, and one where every chapter ends with the perfect bombshell.
The story of the Sacklers and OxyContin is a parable of the modern era of philanthropy being deployed to burnish the reputations of financiers and entrepreneurs . . . [A] tour-de-force