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Drug Lords of America

Ralph welcomes Washington Post investigative reporters, Sari Horowitz and Scott Higham, authors of “American Cartel: Inside the Battle to Bring Down the Opioid Industry,” that tells the thrilling David versus Goliath story that goes beyond the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma to expose the many other corporate criminals who aided and abetted the crisis and chronicles the heroes who fought to bring them to justice.

Sari Horwitz is a four-time Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter who has been at The Washington Post for four decades, where she has covered the Justice Department and criminal justice issues.






Scott Higham is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter for The Washington Post. His investigation into the opioid industry with 60 Minutes received the Peabody Award, an Emmy, and the duPont-Columbia and Edward R. Murrow awards.






Together, they were lead reporters on the Post’s “The Opioid Files” series, which was a Pulitzer Finalist for Public Service in 2020, and they are co-authors of American Cartel: Inside the Battle to Bring Down the Opioid Industry.


​​We always hear about the Sacklers and we hear about Purdue Pharma, and I don’t think people realize that so many American companies are behind this epidemic…that led to the addiction of millions of Americans.

Sari Horwitz, author of American Cartel: Inside the Battle to Bring Down the Opioid Industry


There are 40,000 Americans who are in jail on marijuana charges, and not one executive of a Fortune 500 company that was involved in the opioid trade has been charged with a crime. And there’s a lot of evidence out there, now, that’s come out in discovery— internal emails, documents, memos, internal audits that these companies were doing that show what they knew, when they knew it, actions they took, actions they didn’t take.

Scott Higham, author of American Cartel: Inside the Battle to Bring Down the Opioid Industry


One of the most revealing parts of [American Cartel] is the swarm of former Justice Department officials and lawyers and former officials of other federal agencies who left the federal government, went into private business, and then were called on to bounce back and exert their influence to weaken the Justice Department’s resolve.

Ralph Nader



  1. Robert Mesnard says:

    None of you have seen or heard of the tv series Dopesick? The movie you want has already been done!

  2. Robin Kash says:

    They never did answer Nader’s question about the “demand” side and just what sort of pain is drug use/addiction addressing. Neither even made an attempt. Ralph did not press them, either.
    All efforts to staunch drug use/abuse seem direct to dealing with the supply side. Policing and to some extent military doctrines feed off this one-sided approach. A whole industry of drug “prevention” and “treatment” is built on the demand side. No one seems able to explain the demand for drugs

  3. Bonita Eiden says:

    I am a legitimate pain patient with a recognized pain clinic. i have had all kinds of diagnostic work and all treatment options there were, none of which worked some of which were excruciating. i listen in fear over the possibility of them taking my meds. all actions by the criminal industry that has taken over, ultimately hit me. Without fail, i suffer from these criminals. No addresses the fact that Boston Scientific provided bad counsel in the choice to have a spinal stimulator at $36,000. It was a double failure, it did not work properly and did not help at all. I was only a test patient. they laughed all the way to their bank and bottom line. I was the one who could claim the worse suffering through out the implant. This device disappeared in short order.
    So as I listen while suppressing a scream. the mention of ‘legitimate’ use of pain meds becomes a tiny comment that is meaningless to most. my own spouse did not understand my suffering. strangers, friends, family diagnosed me declaring that i was “an addict”. every one was a expert. again, the screaming i wanted to do. i have cried in fear of the ‘law’ taking away these meds by default. if my pain relief is stolen from me, you might as well shoot me. yes, drugs are hard to take and live with but i have a life. take my relief and my life would not last long. why can you not address this??? my life is on the line. a book that can help is called “chasing the scream’ Please read this to understand and do not leave me and others out of this critical discussion.

    Respectfully but managing to live with pain,
    Bonita Eiden

    • David Faubion says:

      Dear Bonita Eiden,

      I a sorry for your suffering in pain, yet I am grateful that you have made it known in this context. I wish now that I’d read your words first before posting mine. Those of us who are relatively pain-free too easily are unmindful of people living with chronic and acute pain.
      I hope that the medical professionals working for you can find the best regimen of drugs and other therapies for your relief. Love your courage, David.

  4. Ruth says:

    Thank you for your work! I am wondering how much attention has been paid to the culture of medicine that led to the prescribing of these medications. I am a physician who began my practice around the time of the beginning of the push to use opioids for pain relief. This happened at about the same time that the principles of evidence based medicine began to be introduced into clinical teaching and practice. I was always surprised that I could not find good evidence pertaining to the use of opioids, just as companies were able to spend huge sums on finding relatively small benefits of many classes of medications. I think really dissecting the story from the perspective of physicians and pressures they faced would bring to light the larger issue of what might be called manufactured consent when it comes to the culture involved in the practice of medicine.

  5. Elliot Kralj says:

    Do you have the link mentioned that shows the opioid sales to pharmacies by city/county? I’d like to see the data on sales in Austin, Texas…Travis County.

    Thank you Nader!!!!

  6. David Faubion says:

    Our trust in the medical profession as it prescribed the deadly opiates in absurd quantities is implicit in this US national tragedy and disgrace. So the recent dosage restriction of opiates is welcome news, albeit too late, too tragic, and too much a farcical sneering at medicine, health, and propriety writ large.

    The courts are letting the homicidal malpractice of Sackler/Purdue Pharma, the MDs, hospitals, and pharmacies –just like Boeing and too many other corporations– buy their way out of prison and arguably death row. That criminal trend of the judiciary sucks the lifeblood of our just and caring humanity. It gives genocide a legal platform from which to operate. As an aggregate, the aforelisted is the medical profession has perverted the Oath of Hippocrates into ‘Do as much harm as possible.’ So it sucks now to be a Homo sapiens.

    Scare tactics and ‘just say no’ to controlled substances still dominates the push against that manifestation of drug abuse. Ironically, that is just the strategy necessary to save lives and health in the arena of deadly and debilitating legal drugs. ‘Buyer beware’ is not enough to stop the misery. As a united group of consumers, we must seek the abundance of safe and effective alternatives–especially prevention. After all, drugs are largely petrochemical analogs of medicine found in nature. Nature includes love, laughter, water, movement, deep breathing, nurture, art, science, and rest; these are safe, perennial, and eternal medicines.

    “Kill the Messenger” is the 2014 film about the whistleblowing journalist Gary Webb who lifted the rock of the CIA’s covert pushing of illicit drugs in communities of color and poverty. The aim of the CIA was to make addiction a means to control the rebellion and imprison the oppressed, the impoverished. Love you Gary for your courage and ultimate sacrifice for a humane future.

  7. David Miller says:

    The reason the authors got on Fresh Air, etc. is their drug warrior stance and supporting the drug war is all you get from public media. The authors use of the loaded term “dangerous drugs” and the constant affirmation of the DEA and punitive measures is revealing. Prohibition is a large part of the problem here that is not being addressed. Once the DEA clamped down on the pill mills, where were users supposed to go. . . the black market. I strongly suspect the FBI/CIA/DEA encouraged some of their cartel collaborators in Mexico and elsewhere to add fentanyl to heroin to increase the opiod crisis severity. These people will do anything to advance the drug war and enlarge the police state.