Protesters in New York and Physicians for Human Rights in Israel call on Guggenheim museum and Tel Aviv University to refuse donations from the Jewish-American Sackler family, which owns Purdue Pharma, the OxyContin maker.
Amid allegations that Purdue Pharma pushed OxyContin and other opioid drugs to increase profits, and worsened opioid crisis in the U.S, Human Rights activists in New York and Israel demanded: “Take down their name”, referring to the Sacklers’ links with the Guggenheim museum and TAU to rename its Sackler Faculty of Medicine
“I turn to you on the backdrop of the opioid crisis in the US and the reports on the Sackler family’s part in its creation,” Hadas Ziv, the head of public activity and ethics at the Israeli NGO, wrote in a letter to Tel Aviv University President Prof. Joseph Klafter and the head of the Faculty of Medicine Prof. Ehud Grossman.
“While the faculty teaches that the most important thing is the health and life of patients, company executives, according to reports, encouraged inappropriate behavior that caused the death of people, in order to increase their profits,” Ziv wrote.
Purdue Pharma was founded by three brothers Mortimer, Raymond and Arthur who invented OxyContin after Arthur’s death. Some of the surviving relatives of Mortimer and Raymond now own the company.
36 US states had filed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma which has been accused of using hard-sell tactics on doctors while underplaying the dangers of the drug.
Massachusetts was the first state to try to hold the surviving relatives, including Purdue’s former President Richard Sackler, personally directed the marketing of opioids in order to make billions of dollars. Therefore they are personally responsible for contributing to the US opioid epidemic.
In a 2001 email Purdue’s president Richard Sackler argued the company needed to shift responsibility away from Purdue and “hammer on the abusers in every way possible,” the complaint said. In an email cited in the complaint, he said, it “implies a danger of untoward reactions and hazards that simply aren’t there” and he pushed for a “less threatening” way to describe Purdue’s opioids.
The complaint cites internal records which were made public despite Purdue’s efforts to keep much of the 279-page complaint redacted.
They did so even after Purdue and three executives in 2007 pleaded guilty to federal charges related to the misbranding of OxyContin and agreed to pay a total of $634.5 million in penalties, the lawsuit said.
The lawsuit said, their push to boost sales, came even after staff showed family members on Purdue’s board a map correlating suspected illegal prescribers and reports of opioid poisonings in 2011.
After leaving that position in 2003 Richard Sackler as a member of Purdue’s board, frequently demanded detailed opioid sales data, the lawsuit said.
In 2011, Richard Sackler personally accompanied sales representatives to observe how they marketed Purdue products to doctors and afterward argued that a legally required warning about opioid risks was unnecessary, the lawsuit said.
In a statement, Purdue said on Healey’s lawsuit “distorts critical facts” and “is littered with biased and inaccurate characterizations of these documents and individual defendants.”
Tel Aviv University said in response: “The Sackler family donated 50 years ago for the establishment of the medical school. The matter has not yet been ruled on in US courts.”
Ynet News and Reuters contributed to this report