The Sackler Name


Kiki Grace

  The Sackler name is under scrutiny amidst controversy of Purdue’s Oxycontin and the unfolding of an opioid epidemic across the country. Much of the blame for the opioid crisis can be pointed to Purdue, the Sackler-headed pharmaceutical company that engaged in aggressive and misleading advertisement and jump-started a tragic drug outbreak that now kills over one hundred Americans every day. Millions of addicts have spawned from Oxycontin, particularly in rural areas of labor-intensive job opportunities and immense social and kinship structures that facilitate prescription medication. Once remembered for philanthropy, a spirit of largesse, and success, the Sackler name is now carrying the burden of Oxycontin. Prominent academic institutions and museums across the world are removing the Sackler name and denying the family’s philanthropic gestures. The question lies in a mess of grim death tolls, corruption, and the shifted trajectory of a once well-respected legacy – should the entire family carry this weight? 

 Oxycontin is proven to be stronger than morphine, yet it was advertised to solve minor health issues. As a result of dishonest publicity, doctors prescribed this drug to patients with the belief it was not addictive, fueling a disastrous aftermath and mass contention. According to the National Library of Medicine, “By 2004, OxyContin had become the most prevalent prescription opioid abused in the United States.” The debate is not centered on whether the distribution of Oxycontin was conducted correctly- it was blatantly immoral- but whether unconnected Sackler members should be attached to these crimes. Harvard University refrained from removing Arthur Sackler’s name from their facilities because he died a decade before the release of the Oxycontin. His name is linked to this drug through familial ascendency, not personal involvement. On the other hand, according to The Boston Globe, Tufts University has removed: “The Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences; the Arthur M. Sackler Center for Medical Education; the Sackler Laboratory for the Convergence of Biomedical, Physical and Engineering Sciences; the Sackler Families Collaborative Fund for Cancer Biology Research; and the Richard Sackler Endowed Research Fund,” in light of the lives that became dollar signs and accumulated into donations; lost to the American opioid crisis. 

 Many other institutions of cultural and academic distinction have rejected donations under the Sackler name or have removed the title from their spaces. The National Portrait Gallery in Britain, the Louvre, and Columbia University are some of the establishments that have since expressed their dismissal of Sackler funds. By shifting the use of Sackler donations, the University of Connecticut has taken a different stance and approach to the national opioid epidemic. The university plans to use a 200,000 dollar donation for the furtherance and financial backing of studies in addiction. 

 The Sackler name continues to represent the opioid crisis. Some members of this elite American bloodline embody pharmaceutical abuse. As the Sackler name dissolves in cultural and academic spheres, discussions continue on the basis of family lineage vs. individual accountability and the money, reputation, and legacy that forges humanity’s most important societal connection – “family” – and its fruition – “name.”