The Sackler family made billions from OxyContin. Why do top US colleges take money tainted by the opioid crisis?

Jan 29, 2018 by

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Yale, Columbia and others accepted donations from the family behind
Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin – but the universities won’t say what they will do about it

A controversy is enveloping one of America’s wealthiest families. It involves the fraught relationship between pharmaceutical companies at the heart of the opioid crisis and the nonprofits they fund.

In this case, the company is Purdue Pharma, which is owned by the Sackler family. Their wealth exceeds $13bn, and over the years, the family have been generous patrons of medical research at the nation’s leading universities, including Columbia, Cornell, Tufts and Yale.

Purdue Pharma produces the opioid OxyContin. Purdue told doctors the drug had a low addiction rate, because it was a time-released medication. Alas, this was not the case. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the death toll from OxyContin and related prescription opioids now exceeds 200,000. The federal government estimates that 2.4 million Americans currently suffer from opioid addiction disorders.

Purdue Pharma pleaded guilty in 2006 in federal court to marketing OxyContin “with the intent to defraud or mislead”. At the time, the company paid a $600m fine – widely seen as a slap on the wrist – while executives paid additional fines of $34.5m.

Over the years, some of America’s leading universities have accepted large sums of money from the Sacklers for science research and the Sackler name is prominently attached to their institutions. So, in light of recent revelations about the origins of the Sackler wealth, will these universities attempt to somehow hold the Sacklers to account?

For now, they are not saying.

Four universities contacted declined requests for an interview. “We will not be able to offer anyone for an interview,” said Weill Cornell Medicine, home of the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Center for Biomedical and Physical Sciences.

“At this time, we do not have any comment,” replied Tufts University, which is home to the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences.

Source: The Sackler family made billions from OxyContin. Why do top US colleges take money tainted by the opioid crisis? | US news | The Guardian

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