US author to donate £10,000 cash for role as sponsor in opioid crisis | Books

American writer Patrick Radden Keefe has said he will donate the £10,000 awarded to him by a book prize whose sponsor helped sell the opioid painkiller OxyContin.

Radden Keefe’s damning investigative book Empire of Pain deals with the crisis of opioid addiction, focusing on the role of the Sackler family. He was one of six authors shortlisted for the prize, sponsored by consultancy firm McKinsey, five of whom, including him, each received prizes of £10,000.

Tweeting about “irony” on Thursday, the New York journalist and author posted a photo of himself at the Financial Times/McKinsey Business Book of the Year 2021 awards ceremony at the National Gallery in London, pointing to a sign reading “The Sackler Room”. The Sacklers’ company, Purdue Pharma, sold the painkiller OxyContin that allegedly fueled the opioid crisis in the United States.

In another tweet, Keefe went on to write that “if you throw a brick in the London art world you’ll land in a Sackler room” as the family were strong supporters of art and made generous donations. donations to many leading galleries.

What was more ironic than the ceremony being held in a room next to the one named after the Sacklers, he continued, was the fact that he had been shortlisted for an award sponsored by McKinsey & Company. The consultancy had previously advised the Sacklers and Purdue on how to “turbocharge” OxyContin sales, and in February agreed to pay nearly $600 million in settlement for its role in the opioid crisis.

It “created some pretty heavy emotions,” Keefe said. “On the one hand, it means a lot to me to see this book recognized. On the other hand, I could not participate in the charming gala dinner and not at least greet the proverbial elephant.

He chose to donate the money he received as a shortlisted author to the charity Odyssey House, which helps people recover from drug and alcohol abuse.

The writer, who won the Baillie Gifford Prize for Non-Fiction in November, lost the Business Book of the Year award to Nicole Perlroth, whose winning book This Is How They Tell Me The World Ends deals with the cyber arms race.

Keefe was keen to stress that he believed the judging panel was “100% independent” and in no way influenced by the prize sponsor.

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