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Empire of Pain

by 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 to the arts and 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.

Empire of Pain is a masterpiece of narrative reporting and writing, exhaustively documented and ferociously compelling​. It has won the Baillie Gifford prize for Non-ficiton 2021 . “We were completely bowled over as a group of judges by Empire of Pain. By its moral rigour, its controlled fury, its exhaustive research, the skilful writing, the bravery it took to write it. Above all, though, by its sheer propulsive narrative energy,” said chair of judges Andrew Holgate.

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