NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR • A grand, devastating portrait of three generations of the Sackler family, famed for their philanthropy, whose fortune was built by Valium and whose reputation was destroyed by OxyContin. From the prize-winning and bestselling author of Say Nothing.
"A real-life version of the HBO series Succession with a lethal sting in its tail…a masterful work of narrative reportage.” – Laura Miller, Slate
The history of the Sackler dynasty is rife with drama—baroque personal lives; bitter disputes over estates; fistfights in boardrooms; glittering art collections; Machiavellian courtroom maneuvers; and the calculated use of money to burnish reputations and crush the less powerful. The Sackler name has adorned 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, but the source of the family fortune was vague—until it emerged that the Sacklers were responsible for making and marketing a blockbuster painkiller that was the catalyst for the opioid crisis.
Empire of Pain is the saga of three generations of a single family and the mark they would leave on the world, a tale that moves from the bustling streets of early twentieth-century Brooklyn to the seaside palaces of Greenwich, Connecticut, and Cap d’Antibes to the corridors of power in Washington, D.C. It follows the family’s early success with Valium to the much more potent OxyContin, marketed with a ruthless technique of co-opting doctors, influencing the FDA, downplaying the drug’s addictiveness. Empire of Pain chronicles the multiple investigations of the Sacklers and their company, and the scorched-earth legal tactics that the family has used to evade accountability.
A masterpiece of narrative reporting, Empire of Pain is a ferociously compelling portrait of America’s second Gilded Age, a study of impunity among the super-elite and a relentless investigation of the naked greed that built one of the world’s great fortunes.