“Put simply, this book will make your blood boil.” That is the assessment of John Carreyrou in his New York Times review of “Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty” written by award-winning author Patrick Radden Keefe. The Sacklers are the Rhode Island family that owns Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin.
Some 500,000 Americans have died from opioid-related overdoses since 1999, and millions more have become hopelessly addicted. Not all of this wreckage can be laid at the feet of the Sacklers, but a lot of it can.
That review cites the family’s attempts to quash last October’s John Oliver segment about their aggressive marketing of OxyContin. (I covered that John Oliver episode in October.) I suspect the Sacklers will be equally unhappy with the new HBO documentary, “The Crime of the Century,” directed by Emmy and Academy Award winner Alex Gibney — “The Inventor: Out for Blood in Silicon Valley,” “Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief,” and “Enron: the Smartest Guys in the Room.” The show airs in two two-hour installments. Part One focuses on the Sacklers, but there are other villains to be sure. From Variety:
. . . FDA official Curtis Wright allowed Purdue officials to literally write the drug’s approval for him (within a year, he was hired by Purdue at a salary of $375,000). The stage was then set for the drug to be prescribed not just for late-stage cancer patients or for those recovering from surgery, but for anyone suffering from any kind of pain.
We think nothing of sentencing low-level drug dealers (particularly people of color) to decades in prison, why are the Sacklers walking free? The federal government had the power to put the Sacklers in jail, but negotiated a settlement instead. Still, they should pay for the damage they have caused (as if that could bring back the dead). Unlike other attorneys general who have settled their claims, Rhode Island A. G. Peter Neronha is not giving up:
We are committed to continuing to aggressively pursue our claims against Purdue Pharma and the Sacklers. Today we filed a complaint against additional members of the Sackler family for the role that they played in the distribution of these highly addictive opioids in Rhode Island.
Unlike other institutions who have benefited from this blood money and been shamed into giving it back, Brown University decided it could work with the Sacklers:
Brown University got caught holding onto a $1 million donation, hoping the whole thing would blow over. By September of 2019 Brown — instead of sending the money back as they should have — decided to work with La Fondation Sackler to “redirect” the funds to worthy, related causes. So who are the officials that Brown will be working with at that organization? Kathie Sackler, Marissa Sackler, Michael Sackler, Mortimer Sackler, Theresa Sackler . . . you get the idea. At the time of this Providence Journal report, Brown had redirected all of $100,000.
I can find no evidence that they have had second thoughts on this approach or returned the remaining $900,000.
The Crime of the Century, HBO and HBO Max, starts 9pm, Monday, May 10th