“The opioid crisis is, among other things, a parable about the awesome capability of private industry to subvert public institutions.”
Patrick Radden Keefe, Empire of Pain
This reads like a thriller. The focus on the Sacklers humans involved make it very readable, and among others, the points made that stick out to me are: (1) the playbook for Librium in the 1960s – claiming that withdrawal is not a sign of dependence but intensification of the underlying condition, thus justifying a higher dose of Librium; abuse comes from using the drug in non-intended ways: blame the user, not the drug – was used for Oxycontin decades later. And it worked for the Sacklers again, for decades. (2) the timeline. Oxycontin came into the market in the early 90s, and it was only in 2018 that the more serious repercussions came in when the Massachusetts AG decided to personally name the Sacklers as defendants. The multi-district litigation eventually culminated in the Sacklers stepping down, and a settlement sum in 2021 from Purdue Pharma that exceeded $4b. But, and there is a but, Purdue Pharma had already pled guilty in 2008 for lesser offences (pertaining to how they marketed the drug) and yet, it continued to sell the drug and in the 2010s also entered various other markets.
The number of years this went on for is quite staggering. But investigation and litigation can take time, especially if a litigant manages to get a court order for documents to be sealed/ destroyed upon the resolution of a case. Richard Sackler’s deposition in a settled case was somehow unearthed, and reading a transcript may have less impact. Transcripts cannot convey tone or facial expressions. I was very amused to learn that John Oliver hired actors to play Sackler and read out the transcript.