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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 thirty 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.

What's Inside

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“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
"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
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