American author gives £ 10,000 prize money away over role as sponsor in opioid crisis | Books

U.S. author Patrick Radden Keefe has said he will give away the £ 10,000 he was awarded by a book prize whose sponsor helped sell the opioid painkiller OxyContin.

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

Tweeting about the “irony” on Thursday, the New Yorker journalist and author posted a picture of himself at the awards ceremony of the Financial Times / McKinsey Business Book of the Year 2021 at the National Gallery in London, pointing to a sign with “The Sackler Room” . ”. Sacklers’ company Purdue Pharma sold OxyContin painkillers, which are said to have led to the US opioid crisis.

In a further tweet, Keefe went on to write that “if you throw a brick at London’s art world, you’re hitting a Sackler room” because the family were avid fans of art and made generous donations to many prominent galleries.

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

This “created some pretty filled 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 attend the wonderful gala dinner and not at least recognize the legendary elephant. ”

He has chosen to donate the money he received as a writer to the charity Odyssey House, which works to help people recover from drug and alcohol abuse.

The author, who won the Baillie Gifford Prize for Nonfiction in November, lost the award for Business of the Year to Nicole Perlroth, whose winning book This Is How They Tell Me The World Ends is about the arms race over cyber weapons.

Keefe was eager to stress that he believes the jury was “100% independent” and not in any way influenced by the award’s sponsor.

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