Summary and Analysis

On June 8, 2021, Patrick Radden Keefe testified before Congress. Keefe is the author of Empire of Pain: The Secret History of the Sackler Dynasty, a thorough exposé of the involvement of the Sackler family in the development of America’s opioid crisis.

Keefe was only one of five witnesses invited to speak before Congress this day. Joining him were:

  • Maura Healy, Attorney General of Massachusetts
  • The Honorable James Carroll, former Director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy
  • Ms. Alexis Pleus, Founder and Executive Director, Truth Pharm
  • Mr. Lawrence Wasden, Attorney General, State of Idaho

What was the occasion of this hearing and testimony? According to the House Oversight Committee:

“The hearing will examine the harm members of the Sackler family inflicted on American communities while enriching themselves through Purdue Pharma’s sales of the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin. The hearing will also evaluate the need for Congress to enact reforms like the SACKLER Act—legislation that would prevent individuals who have not filed for bankruptcy, like members of the Sackler family, from obtaining releases from individual liability through bankruptcy proceedings.”

Why were these people called in support of the SACKLER Act? These parties are interested in seeing that the Sackler family members involved in the aggressive and fraudulent marketing of OxyContin that started in 1996 bear personal responsibility for the effects of their actions. While Purdue Pharma has paid hundreds of millions in fines and is currently in bankruptcy proceedings, the Sackler family that owns Purdue Pharma is still vastly wealthy. Every legal action against them or the company ends up with the Sacklers being granted complete immunity. The SACKLER Act is an attempt to create legislation to close this loophole forever.

Keefe noted: “Every state in the union is suing the company. Half the states filed suit against the Sacklers themselves. But all the while, in the background, quietly, the family was pulling money out of the business. Three hundred million here. Four hundred million there. So the company is committing crimes, and the family is still very much calling the shots about what’s happening at the company, and the whole time those crimes are being committed, the family is siphoning money out. The Sacklers ultimately took more than ten billion dollars out of Purdue. They did this because they knew a day of reckoning was coming, and they wanted to be ready when it came.”

Keefe’s testimony was brief and could only hit a few of the most salient points presented in his 400+ page book Empire of Pain. You can link to his testimony below.


Excerpted from the Testimony of Patrick Radden Keefe

At the Congressional hearing on “The SACKLER Act and Other Policies to Promote Accountability for the Sackler Family’s Role in the Opioid Epidemic,” June 8, 2021

“I’m a journalist with The New Yorker magazine, though I’m speaking here today in my own personal capacity. I’ve been investigating the Sacklers and their company since 2017. This has not been easy. The family is extremely secretive and did not cooperate with my efforts; in fact, one branch of the family has been threatening to sue me for the past couple of years. This is typical of their decades-long campaign to suppress the truth about the role that their company played in helping to precipitate the opioid crisis. In April, I published a book called ‘Empire of Pain,’ which tells that story in unprecedented detail. It is an honor to have the opportunity to share some of my findings with you today.”