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BJS Bookshelf: Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Family.

Authors: Recommendation and Article by Deborah Verran; Surgeon; Ramsey Healthcare; Sydney; Australia

You may have heard about the Sackler family who, until recently, were better known for some of their philanthropic work around the world, including in the arts. Until relatively recently, it was not clear how members of this family were in a position to fund all of their philanthropic activities. This forensic exposé of the Sackler family by journalist Patrick Radden Keefe explores in detail their close involvement with the pharmaceutical industry over several decades. It is an eye-opening read as it provides background context on how some of the pharmaceutical agents were both developed and then widely marketed by those holding an interest. This is a long book rather than a weekend read. However, those of you who persist will be left with a feeling that you have learnt something worthwhile.

Why surgeons should read this book:

All surgeons involved in operative procedures will be aware of the challenges involved in adequately managing pain relief in their patients. Plus, it has only been in relatively recent times that powerful oral medications have come in to mainstream practice as part of the armamentarium for managing acute pain. Oxycontin is a medication that has become the focus of increasing attention, and not always for positive reasons. This book delves into details on how Oxycontin came to be such a widely used medication around the world, along with many of the problems which have subsequently arisen. Reading this book provides surgeons with some additional background information on Oxycontin which is not readily available elsewhere. This information may be of benefit in practice, or at least can potentially lead to important conversations with other colleagues in the workplace. Empire of pain serves as a timely reminder as to why the sound regulation of newly developed and powerful pharmaceuticals is so important in practice.


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