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Publisher's Summary

The definitive investigation and exposé of how some of the nation's largest corporations created and fueled the opioid crisis—from the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporters who first uncovered the dimensions of the deluge of pain pills that ravaged the country and the complicity of a near-omnipotent drug cartel. 

American Cartel is an unflinching and deeply documented dive into the culpability of the drug companies behind the staggering death toll of the opioid epidemic. It follows a small band of DEA agents led by Joseph Rannazzisi, a tough-talking New Yorker who had spent a storied 30 years bringing down bad guys; along with a band of lawyers, including West Virginia native Paul Farrell Jr., who fought to hold the drug industry to account in the face of the worst man-made drug epidemic in American history. It is the story of underdogs prevailing over corporate greed and political cowardice, persevering in the face of predicted failure, and how they found some semblance of justice for the families of the dead during the most complex civil litigation ever seen.

The investigators and lawyers discovered hundreds of thousands of confidential corporate emails and memos during courtroom combat with legions of white-shoe law firms defending the opioid industry. One breathtaking disclosure after another - from emails that mocked addicts to invoices chronicling the rise of pill mills - showed the indifference of big business to the epidemic’s toll. The narrative approach echoes such work as A Civil Action and The Insider, moving dramatically between corporate boardrooms, courthouses, lobbying firms, DEA field offices, and Capitol Hill while capturing the human toll of the epidemic on America’s streets.

American Cartel is the story of those who were on the front lines of the fight to stop the human carnage. Along the way, they suffer a string of defeats, some of their careers destroyed by the very same government officials who swore to uphold the law before they begin to prevail over some of the most powerful corporate and political influences in the nation.

©2022 Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz (P)2022 Twelve

Critic Reviews

“An eye-opening, shocking and deeply documented investigation of the opioid crisis by two great reporters. This is not just about the greed of the pharmaceutical companies. AMERICAN CARTEL exposes the sweeping moral corruption of some senior officials in the Department of Justice, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Congress, and the practice of medicine and law. The ultimate corruption is the collective failure to see, define and act on the larger public interest to address a true national emergency.” (Bob Woodward, associate editor of The Washington Post and best-selling author of Peril)

"A story of courageous heroes fighting the opioid crisis, AMERICAN CARTEL reads like a thriller. At the same time, it is a vivisection of the political and corporate corruption that allows pharmaceutical firms to profit from despair. AC follows a group of modern-day 'private eyes' as they investigate players much bigger than the Sacklers, including some of America’s biggest companies and most powerful members of Congress. Like a riveting true crime story, AC 'follows the money' through the revolving doors of Washington, into the swamp of lobbyists and white collar drug rings who recklessly peddle narcotics for billions of dollars as hundreds of thousands of Americans die of overdoses." (Alex Gibney, Academy award-winning filmmaker and director of The Crime of the Century)

“Scott Higham and Sari Horwitz are two of the most tenacious investigative reporters in journalism. For years they dug into America’s opioid epidemic, unearthing a pattern of callousness and recklessness within the drug industry. With a fast-paced and absorbing narrative, and dismaying documentary evidence, they recount how powerful interests abetted widespread addiction and abuse - and how a few determined individuals fought for years to finally hold them to account.” (Marty Baron, executive editor (retired), The Washington Post)

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A must listen.

A must listen. The authors clearly did their research and wove the facts into a compelling narrative, telling the tragic story of an epidemic that continues to this day, fueled by greed and corruption. As captivating as it is frustrating.

2 people found this helpful

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Legal drama, tragic reality

Riveting. Even if you know about it from the news you will be fascinated by the multiple factors and characters in this account of the trials to hold the drug companies accountable. Like tobacco and climate change you, follow the money.

2 people found this helpful

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A Must Read

This well documented and succinct telling of this aspect of the opioid epidemic is a book, along with Empire of Pain and Dopesick that everyone should listen to.

2 people found this helpful

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Excellent Book

If you want to understand the opioid crisis and how we got to this point, this is a must-read book. This is a comprehensive story with facts and details about the opioid epidemic. Excellent read.

2 people found this helpful

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Compelling

Could not stop listening to this well crafted and well reported story. It is timely, revealing and insightful. Skewers Congress, big business, the judiciary, attorneys. Explains a lot. Superior.

2 people found this helpful

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Blown away

I listened to the audiobook.
Having had many friends and family members affected by the opioid epidemic including several deaths I was very interested to get this book as soon as I was aware of it. I had no idea of the shear number of pills pushed into the market by pharmaceutical companies and distributors. I am blown away.
I am appalled at the corruption of former DEA officials working for these entities and lobbying the government to weaken enforcement.
Everyone who has been impacted by this scourge, which is pretty much everyone, should read this.
US citizens should be aware that's its not Mexico or China that's responsible it's our local drug store chain. Sickened, disgusted and grateful to the authors and the attorneys who brought this to light.

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Jaw dropping true crime story masterfully orated

This page turner reveals that front line agents were trying to save lives but they were thwarted and even persecuted by some of their former colleagues who went through the revolving door of government to the industry they once policed and regulated.
Having lost my son in 2001 and following closely the mushrooming opioid epidemic I always wondered why no one in power was doing anything concrete to stop it? Now the sickening details are being revealed.

My hope is this book generates more jaw dropping outrage not at just towards the people who participated but to the system that actually encouraged the nefarious behavior that has claimed over a million lives and counting.

This is a true crime book and with 1 in 3 Americans now affected by drug use the system needs to change and people need to know the truths in this jaw dropping book.

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Well done and terrifying

These events have been meticulously researched, if you watched Hulu’s “Dope Sick”, this tells more of the story. Purdue Pharma was just a small piece.

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REAL

It’s the real and true story about Big Pharma! Although they will never take responsibility or admit fault. And why do the City’s and counties get billions and the real victims get nothing that I don’t understand.

1 person found this helpful

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Gripping narrative of tragedy on a massive scale

Well written
Well performed
Illustrates various aspects of the opioid epidemic by following memorable characters
Sections on legislation and influence of power have lessons beyond the drug epidemic

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  • Jean Alvarez Comp
  • 09-14-22

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test review for this book, great title and great performance, testing more about this