Protesters Call on Guggenheim to Drop Top Jewish Donor Over Opioid Crisis

The Sackler family has been accused of directing their pharmaceutical firm to mislead patients about the dangers of the opioid painkiller OxyContin

Marcy Oster
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Protesters throw papers from the upper level of the GUggenheim in protest of the Sackler family, Fabruary 9, 2019.
Protesters throw papers from the upper level of the GUggenheim in protest of the Sackler family, Fabruary 9, 2019.Credit: \ SOCIAL MEDIA/ REUTERS
Marcy Oster

Demonstrators protested Saturday at the Guggenheim Museum in New York against its major donors, the Sackler family.

Some members of the family have been accused of directing their pharmaceutical firm, Purdue Pharma, to mislead doctors and patients about the dangers of the opioid painkiller OxyContin produced by the company.

The protest was led by a group founded by the Jewish activist and photographer Nan Goldin, The Associated Press reported. The group is calling on museums to refuse donations from Sackler family members over its contribution to the opioid crisis.

The protesters dropped thousands of fake prescriptions for OxyContin into the museum’s main atrium that read “Sacklers lie. People die,” “Shame on Sackler” and “Take down the name.”

The museum’s Sackler Center for Arts Education was built with funding from the family. Arthur Sackler’s name appears on the building; he died before OxyContin was released. Sackler’s brothers, Raymond and Mortimer, bought out his stake after his death.

The family has supported Tel Aviv University’s School of Medicine and the Jewish Museum in Berlin.

Last month, the Massachusetts attorney general filed Purdue Pharma internal company communications that provide the first evidence that the Sacklers made company decisions to aggressively market OxyContin even though they allegedly knew it is highly addictive.

In June, Attorney General Maura Healey sued eight members of the Sackler family and others alleging that they had misled doctors and patients about OxyContin’s risks. The Sacklers are among the richest families in the United States, with much of their wealth derived from sales of OxyContin.

More than 200,000 people have died in the United States from overdoses involving prescription opioids, and Purdue Pharma has been the target of numerous lawsuits.

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