Ping-Ko Chiu


Software Engineer,
Location Technologies @ Apple
pingkochiu [at]

7 January 2022

Empire of Pain

by Ping-Ko Chiu

— Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe

I don’t usually gravitate towards biographies or books related to medicine — Learning about the opioid crisis and the key players that caused it is not my usual choice. I stumbled upon this audiobook while I was driving one day and I was immediately hooked. I couldn’t put it down (figuratively because it is an audiobook). The book tells the story of the Sackler family. It begins four generations ago with the Sacklers that immigrated to the US and follows the events that led up to their involvement in the opioid crisis. The book goes into fascinating detail on their entrepreneurial might and philanthropy that established the family wealth and prestige. The book also discusses the pioneering drug advertising methods that sold Valium and OxyContin as well as the alleged corruption that led to false advertising of the drugs. What really fascinated me was the formulation of OxyContin and the way they extended the drug patents. When OxyContin was later found to be abused by those who simply crushed the pill to get rid of the controlled-release properties, they came up with a tampered resistant formulation. But the tamper-resistant formulation came available at around the time that the original OxyContin patent was expiring. So they allegedly lobbied for the generic OxyContin to be banned in favor of the tamer-resistant formulation that has been granted a new patent with an extended expiration date.

tags: Book