Back In the 1930s, Mortimer and Raymond Sackler both traveled to Scotland for medical school because, they claim, American universities would not enroll them as Jews.
Today, academic and cultural institutions are deciding whether to reject the Sackler brothers’ children — not because of their race but because of what they did in pursuit of money.
Mortimer and Raymond Sackler are just two of the members of a family under scrutiny now for its central role in the opioid crisis, which has led to hundreds of thousands of American lives being destroyed and lost. The family’s pharmaceutical company, Purdue Pharma, is the manufacturer of OxyContin, one of the top opioids on the market.
Mortimer passed away in 2010 and Raymond in 2017. Now rest of the family members are being sued by three states for allegedly committing a variety of fraudulent and deceptive practices in the marketing of OxyContin. Purdue reached a $270 million settlement with the state of Oklahoma in March.
Before becoming famous for painkillers, the Sacklers were notorious for their Jewish-style philanthropy. A variety of museums and schools are grappling with what to do with the buildings, monuments, and chairs named after them. A couple of Jewish institutions, including Tel Aviv University, face that dilemma as well.
The Sackler Brothers, Born to Jewish Immigrants from Europe
Mortimer Sackler was the second son of Jewish immigrants Isaac Sackler, who was born in what is now Ukraine and Sophie (née Greenberg) Sackler from Poland. His father was a grocer in Brooklyn, where Sackler attended Erasmus Hall High School. He had two brothers, Arthur, the oldest who died in 1987, and Raymond, the youngest of the three who died in 2017.
Arthur lived in Manhattan, Mortimer in London and Switzerland, and Raymond in Greenwich, Connecticut.
They Created an Empire from a Small Pharmaceutical Company Into an Empire.
In 1952, Mortimer and Raymond became the co-chairmen of a small Greenwich Village-based pharmaceutical company that Arthur had financed. The Purdue Frederick Company, became the Stamford, Connecticut-based Purdue Pharma. With Raymond, he established pharmaceutical companies in Austria, Canada, Cyprus, Germany, Switzerland, and the UK.
Everything changed in 1996 when the company began to market OxyContin. The drug was marketed as safer than alternatives because of its so-called controlled release, which gradually released the drug into the patient’s bloodstream rather than doing so all at once.
According to a 2017 feature on the family in the New Yorker, the Food and Drug Administration said the drug was less prone to addiction than alternatives because of the controlled release. That was despite Purdue declining to do any clinical studies on the drug’s addictiveness, according to the New Yorker.
OxyContin was prescribed broadly for a wide spectrum of pain, and has made the Sacklers America’s 19th richest family with a combined net worth of $13 billion, according to Forbes. As recently as last year, eight Sacklers sat on Purdue’s board.
But recently, as the human toll of the addiction crisis has become evident — in large part, investigators complain, because the dangers of addiction to OxyContin were downplayed or kept hidden — the Sackler name has become synonymous with controversy. Now the number of Sacklers on the board is zero.
They Were sued for Aggressively and Deceptively Marketing Opioids.
New Jersey filed a civil lawsuit against several members of the high-profile family behind Purdue Pharma, the company that created the opioid painkiller OxyContin, claiming they deceptively marketed their drugs to turn a profit.
State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said the eight Sackler family members named in the suit, all of whom sat on the company’s board, downplayed the risks associated with opioids and caused countless patients to become dependent.
Much of the Sackler wealth comes from one product – OxyContin, the blockbuster prescription painkiller first launched in 1996.
The pill is stronger than morphine and sparked the opioid crisis that’s now killing more than 100 people a day in America and has spawned millions of addicts. It’s also attracted a wave of lawsuits alleging ongoing deception about the safety of OxyContin, which the company had previously admittedmisbranding in a 2007 criminal case.
Two branches of the family control Purdue Pharma, which makes OxyContin but, unlike their company, none of the Sacklers are personally being sued over it.
Each of the brothers owned a third of the firm but when Arthur Sackler died in 1987, Mortimer and Raymond bought out his stake.
Purdue Pharma went on to invent OxyContin, a prescription painkiller with a slow release formula which hit the US market in 1996.
Much of the Sackler family’s fortune comes from Purdue Pharma.