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Pain Killer

An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America's Opioid Epidemic
Narrated by: Ray Porter
Length: 6 hrs and 42 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (105 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

OxyContin, a potent painkiller containing opium-derived oxycodone as its key active ingredient, was first sold in 1996 as a treatment for cancer patients and other chronic pain sufferers. From the start, the drug's manufacturer aggressively marketed its patented time-release formula as a breakthrough in the effort to reduce prescription drug abuse. It wasn't long, however, before thrill-seeking teenagers shattered that illusion of safety; by simply crushing an "Oxy," they were able to tap into a high so seductive it would come to dominate their lives. Some patients, seeking relief from pain, also found themselves drawn to the drug's dark side.  

Pain Killer takes listeners on a journey of discovery that begins with the true story of Lindsay, a high-school cheerleader in Virginia who gets hooked on Oxys, and expands outward to explore the critical issues of legitimate pain management, prescription drug abuse, and how the misuse of science by the drug industry threatens the public good. With the fast-rising abuse of prescription drugs by young people ringing alarm bells within government, the how and why behind the OxyContin disaster is a gripping listen not only for parents, but also for medical professionals, community leaders, business executives, and all those concerned with this crisis.  

The dangers described in Pain Killer also reverberate far beyond the threat from a single drug at a particular moment in time. The focus of our government's war on drugs has clearly misled many of us into thinking that only illegal drugs smuggled from beyond our borders can be abused. As Meier tells the dramatic story, some of the most deadly substances are produced and sold legally right here at home.  

The extraordinary and true story of Oxycontin  

Equal parts crime thriller, medical detective story, and business exposé, Pain Killer takes a hard-hitting look at how a powerful drug touted as the salvation for millions triggered a national tragedy. At its inception, the legal narcotic OxyContin was seen as a pharmaceutical dream, a "wonder" drug that would herald a sea change in medical care while reaping vast profits for its maker. It did do that; but it also unleashed a public health crisis that cut a swath of despair and crime through unsuspecting small towns, suburbs, and cities across the country. As reports of OxyContin overdoses made front-page and network news, doctors, narcotics agents, regulators, industry executives, and lawmakers raced in, scrambling to slow the damage. Behind it all stood one of America's wealthiest families, and a drug company whose relentless promotion helped fuel the problem  

Written by award-winning journalist Barry Meier, whose special report in the New York Times triggered national interest in OxyContin, Pain Killer chronicles the rise of the multibillion dollar pain management industry and lays bare its excesses and abuses.

©2018 Barry Meier (P)2018 Random House Audio

Critic Reviews

“Fascinating.” (The New York Times)

“A timely, compelling, important book.” (The Seattle Times)

“An absorbing indictment of the modern health-care marketing industry, which, as depicted here, has blurred the line between medical ‘education’ and shilling.” (Publishers Weekly)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

White on White Crime: The Rich kill the Poor.

listened almost straight through. Riveting, Concise Storytelling. Spoken with an unending versatility and journalistic rhythm that never feels preachy . as an African American I have always been interested in the crimes White Americans perpetrate against one another ( The Civil War, Domestic Terrorism from OKC Bombing to the Las Vegas Massacre, New Town,, etc, etc, etc) . The Family behind Purdue Pharma, are a new low for American Capitalism. they knowingly and purposefully started the most horrific drug epidemic in this country's history all for-profit. they co-opted the FDA and hundreds of sales representatives into a scheme that allowed doctors to be paid for speaking engagements that were obvious payouts and to construct a bonus system that rewarded higher doses not volume of prescription. if you have been affected by the opioid epidemic in any way this book is a bruising read. and the shectler family and everyone that has been in their orbit has some explaining to do

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Rivetingly accurate portrayal of the opioid crisis

This book was amazing, well researched and accurate. I do a lot of work surrounding the opioid crisis and learned things from this book. A must read for anyone wanting to better understand the inner workings of how American got where it is present day with Opioids.

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Infuriating and Compelling

It's a good thing I started this on my day off because I basically kept listening all day and could not be bothered with anything else. This is an infuriating story of how one company's greed sparked and fueled a national crisis. It's even more infuriating when you realize most of this book is about 15 years old (there are 2018 edition updates) and we've still done so little to reel in irresponsible drug marketing. My one complaint is that I would have liked more about the human toll. The only victim we really get to know is Lindsey Myers, a high school cheerleader whose life spirals after she starts using and quickly becomes addicted. A couple more personal stories I think would have been a good balance to the facts and figures. But overall, if you want to understand how we got where we are in the opioid crisis, this is a great place to start.

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  • Pax
  • U.S.
  • 10-08-18

Good history of where/how the Opiod epidemic began

This is a good book for the history of the opioid epidemic, but lacks in a couple of areas. The first area is how it lacks in attention to the plight of chronic pain patients. We're very much harmed by the reigning in of opioid prescriptions to patients. I think it would have been useful to go into more depth about where we are now (this the second area), in terms of what physicians are doing to effectively stop pain as much as possible without using pain medications. That area needs a lot of attention. I realize that's not the focus of the book, but it could have been expanded in much greater detail for the updated 2018 version.

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Outstanding book

Very detail book how addiction to pain killer have effected dearly people for those that abuse it and as well prescribed the drug for pain killer. It is very concerning with the rise of addiction nowadays.

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Amazing book on how OxyContin got out of control

Great information that opened my eyes to opioid abuse because a pharmaceutical company's exploits. The book focuses on south west Virginia and the Appalachian regions.