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Empire of pain by Patrick Radden Keefe
  1. Al-Wakkass Mahmood,
  2. Tom A T Hughes
  1. Neurology, University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Tom A T Hughes, Neurology, University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, CF14 4XW, UK; tom.hughes2{at}

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Patrick Radden Keefe is an investigative journalist with a reputation for exposing the bad guys, particularly those who are adept at laundering their reputations. This book chronicles the life of the Sackler family, particularly the eldest brother Arthur who was clearly very talented and entrepreneurial from a young age. Thank (or blame) him for any drug lunches you have enjoyed—remembered fondly as a weekly treat by the more senior in our group—as visits from the progenitors of ‘drug reps’ became the accepted way for the dynasty to increase their sales.

The focus of the book is OxyContin, a drug which some believe is responsible for two hundred thousand deaths. One colleague pointed out that their original goal was to develop OxyContin as a pain killer for patients with intractable cancer-related pain at a time when palliative care services were not well developed; they found it hard to believe that the Sacklers could have foreseen how their endeavours would be …

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  • Contributors A-WM collected notes during the book club and wrote the article’s first draft. TATH edited and rewrote parts of the article.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.

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