From philanthropists to outcasts: the family after the opioid crisis in the United States | Society

The family behind the pharmaceutical giant Purdue Pharma It went from being a world leader in philanthropy to becoming an emblem of the opioid crisis that plagues the United States. The Sacklers, richer than the Rockefellers, according to ForbesThey erected a large part of their assets thanks to OxyContin, an opioid that according to thousands of plaintiffs was marketed with misleading advertising, hiding its addictive potential. In September, Purdue Pharma declared bankruptcy and the Sacklers announced that they will cede control of the company to an entity created to "benefit the plaintiffs and the American people." In addition, they will disburse $ 3 billion of their fortune as part of a preliminary agreement to end more than 2,000 state and federal lawsuits. However, there are still more than twenty states that they reject compensation for considering it very low.

The prestigious Tufts University in Boston decided at the beginning of the month to remove the Sackler surname from the programs and buildings built thanks to their donations. According The New York Times, the university has received approximately 15 million dollars from the questioned family since 1980, and "just under half of that remains unused, which are used to fund cancer and epilepsy research." The Museum of Art New York Metropolitan, the Louvre in Paris and the Tate Modern in London, among other galleries, have also removed the Sacklers from their walls and have reported that they will not accept any more gifts from this pharmaceutical dynasty.

Michael Rodman, spokesman for Tufts, argued the decision in a statement: "We decided that the association with Tufts University was unsustainable and opposed to the values ​​and mission of the medical school and university." Attorney Daniel S. Connolly, Raymond Sackler's family representative, one of the three founders of Purdue, explains in an email that they have requested a meeting with the president of the university to reconcile the decision. "We trust that when the facts are known and understood by completely, there will be no support to reject the use of a surname that has supported the work of the university for more than 40 years, "he defends. The Sacklers have stopped making public appearances, such as tape cuts at the institutions they gave them during Decades the fame of patrons and have remained out of the media.

In 2018 the Massachusetts attorney general filed a civil lawsuit against eight members of the Sacklers because "they supervised and participated in a deadly and deceptive scheme to sell opioids." According to an audit commissioned by the pharmaceutical company released in mid-December, the Sacklers withdrew $ 10.7 billion from the company while being accused of being responsible for the health crisis. Between 2008 and 2018, the family raised eight times more money from Purdue Pharma than in the previous 13 years. The money was transferred to family trusts or companies abroad. The largest disbursement came after the Department of Justice in 2007 forced the pharmaceutical company to pay a fine of 634 million for cheating doctors and consumers about the effects of OxyContin.

According to lawyer Connolly, the amounts of the transfers were made public months ago, when they tried to reach an agreement with the plaintiffs, which "was approved by two dozen prosecutors and thousands of local governments." He adds that the reports show "more than half was paid in taxes and reinvested in companies that will be sold as part of the proposed agreement."

Arthur M. Sackler.

Arthur M. Sackler.

The report prepared by the consultant AlixPartners, presented last December 16 at the Federal Bankruptcy Court in White Plains, New York, also showed that between 1995 and 2007, the Sacklers received $ 1.3 billion for the profits of Purdue Pharma, while from 2008 to 2018 payments amounted to 10.7 billion. For the New York Attorney General, Letitia James, who is trying to know how much the Sackler's family assets are really worth and where her money is located, the more than 10 billion is the amount with “the Sacklers benefited from the mortal country opioid epidemic ”.

The Sacklers have been characterized by maintaining a sepulchral silence during trials against the pharmaceutical, but there are records of how they thought. Richard Sackler, the former president of the family business, wrote in an email from 2001, quoted the Massachusetts prosecutor: “We have to hit the abusers [de fármacos] In all possible ways. They are the culprits and the problem. They are reckless criminals. ” One of his legal representatives said this year that "like many people, Dr. Sackler has learned much more about addiction and has apologized for his callous language used in past decades."

The first American Sacklers were born to a couple of immigrants from Eastern Europe. The three children of the marriage grew up in Brooklyn in the 1920s. Arthur, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler studied psychiatry and in the 50s bought a small pharmaceutical company, Purdue Frederick, which they later renamed Purdue Pharma. The eldest, Arthur, was a pioneer of marketing in medicine, as well as one of the leading Asian art collectors of his generation. He was a great seller, who managed to keep the pharmacy afloat. However, Purdue Pharma's greatest success came in 1995, years after Arthur's death. The minors Mortimer and Raymond launched the OxyContin. The US drug agency (FDA) authorized the pain reliever to fight pain in cancer patients and years later would be considered the precursor of the overdose epidemic that has claimed nearly 400,000 lives in the United States between 1997 and 2017.

The multi-million dollar branch of Arthur's descendant family is separated from the other two. After the death of the eldest of the three brothers, his descendants left the pharmaceutical business. Arthur Sackler's wife, philanthropist Jillian Sackler, has worked relentlessly this year to make it clear that neither she nor her deceased husband's children have benefited from OxyContin. A month ago, in an interview with The New York Times, his concern was not in the opioid crisis: "Now I wonder if his legacy will ever recover."


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