Book on the Sackler family and the opioid crisis wins UK prize

Book on the Sackler family and the opioid crisis wins UK prize

London Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: — A book about a wealthy American family whose actions helped unleash the opioid epidemic in the United States won the leading British non-fiction book award on Tuesday.

Patrick Radin Keefe’s “Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty” has been awarded the £50,000 Billy Gifford Prize ($67,000) at a gala ceremony at London’s Science Museum.

Keefe’s book chronicles the clan of billionaire Sackler, owner of Purdue Pharma, whose members have used their wealth to fund museums and art galleries around the world. The account came with the revelation that much of that fortune was based on OxyContin, a powerful pain reliever that the company developed in the 1990s and aggressively marketed to doctors.

Empire of Pain traces the rise of a family’s fortunes under the leadership of three physician brothers and their children, and its fall into a web of lawsuits and bankruptcy proceedings.

Amid protests over its role in the opioid trade, Sackler’s name has been removed in recent years from pavilions and galleries at institutions including the Louvre in Paris and the Serpentine Gallery in London. Institutions, including Britain’s National Portrait Gallery and Tate Galleries, have stopped receiving family donations due to their role in the opioid crisis, which has been linked to more than 500,000 deaths in the United States alone since 2000.


Some deaths from opioids have been attributed to OxyContin and other prescription pain relievers, although most are from illicit forms of opioids such as heroin and illegally manufactured fentanyl.

Members of the Sackler family have denied wrongdoing, although their company has pleaded guilty twice to federal crimes for their opioid practices. In September, a US federal judge gave conditional approval to a settlement that would drive the family out of Purdue’s estate and reorganize the business into a charitable company that funnels its profits to government-run efforts to prevent and treat addiction.

The Baillie Gifford Prize is awarded to books in English from any country in current affairs, history, politics, science, sports, travel, biography, autobiography, and the arts.

Empire of Pain beat out five other contestants: Cal Flynn’s Environmental Exploration, “Islands of Abandonment”; Harald Jenner “Beyond: Life in the Fallout of the Third Reich, 1945-1955”; K. Miller’s Essays on Discrimination, “The Things I Have Obscured”; John Preston Media Biography “The Fall: The Robert Maxwell Mystery”; And the memoirs of Albanian writer Lia Yepe, Free: Coming of Age at the End of History.

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