... a detailed and compelling account of the spread of opioid addiction across the so-called rust belt, said to be the deadliest drug epidemic in American history ... In many ways, McGreal’s book reads like a white-collar The Wire, with a cast of characters determined to exact as much money as possible regardless of the human cost.
McGreal focuses on the impoverished rural Appalachian towns where the opioid crisis hit first, and hit hardest ... McGreal skilfully traces the 'web of interwoven corporate interests and specialists' that funded reports, drafted legislation, cosied up to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and did everything possible to keep opioids selling ... McGreal compares Big Pharma to Big Tobacco but, in truth, he does not find the smoking gun — which would be proof that Purdue knew that OxyContin was more not less addictive.
McGreal goes on to successfully address the question of how the greatest drug epidemic in history grew largely unchecked for nearly two decades, becoming the leading killer of Americans under age 50 ... McGreal paints an unflattering picture of the billionaire Sacklers, the family behind Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. Their heavily marketed prescription drug so severely hooked users, many continued to feed their habits with illicit drugs, including heroin. What can be done to reverse this? McGreal’s powerfully stated indictment is a start.
Chris McGreal... explains in horrifying detail how this vision of a pain-free America — pharmacologically unrealistic to begin with — was subverted by a greedy combination of pharmaceutical companies, drug distributors, doctors and pharmacists, aided and abetted by complacent regulators and politicians ... McGreal has written an interview-based book, with especially vivid reporting from West Virginia, the state hit hardest by the epidemic ... the book is excellent at documenting the failure of the US regulatory and law enforcement system either to curb overenthusiastic marketing campaigns by Purdue [Pharma] and other manufacturers or to intervene as evidence of gross overprescribing emerged.
Guardian reporter McGreal’s book is authoritative in tone and vernacular in style ... The author’s powerful narrative has deep roots in history ... A well-rendered, harrowing book about dire circumstances.