UConn latest school to reveal what they'll do with OxyContin maker's money

The University of Connecticut became the latest college to announce what they will do with donations it received from the Sackler family, owners of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma, which is based in Stamford, Conn.

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The funds will be redirected to support addiction research and education at the school, university officials said Wednesday. The school previously announced in January that it would not be returning any of the philanthropic donations.

This follows announcements schools - including Yale University, Cornell University and the California Institute of Technology - that have said they will stop accepting money from the Sacklers.

In addition, Brown and the University of Washington have said they have no plans to accept gifts for the foreseeable future. Brown spokesman Brian Clark said Monday that's the most the school can do, "considering that we cannot presume to speak to what future generations might do."

Brown University previously announced in late September that it will steer remaining donations from the Sackler Foundation to Rhode Island nonprofit groups that treat opioid addiction, and that influenced UConn’s move.

UConn claims it received about $4.5 million from members of the Sackler family between 1985 and 2014, and the school will redirect all the unspent money, except for a donation that supports a regenerative engineering lab.

"That would have been unfair to them and the important research they are supporting," UConn spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz said, while adding that lab's funding covers salaries for staff jobs that would otherwise have to be cut. "UConn is now in the process of reprogramming the other funds received from Sackler gifts to be used for addiction research and education.”


The announcement comes a week after an review by the Associated Press revealed that universities around the world have accepted more than $60 million from Sackler family foundations since 2013 - even as family members faced lawsuits related to the opioid crisis. No schools have indicated they have any plans to return the money.

UConn's gifts were not detailed in tax and charity records reviewed by the Associated Press and mostly came before 2013. The donations have supported research in a wide range of scientific fields, along with several campus art programs. UConn will make an announcement in the future about where all the money has been redirected when the process is completed.

"UConn is now in the process of reprogramming the other funds received from Sackler gifts to be used for addiction research and education.”

- University of Connecticut spokeswoman Stephanie Reitz

Prestigious universities around the world – including the University of Oxford in England and Rockefeller, Cornell and Columbia universities in New York - have accepted at least $60 million since 2014 from the Sackler family, and some of the donations arrived before recent lawsuits blaming Purdue Pharma for its role in the opioid crisis.

However, at least nine schools accepted gifts since 2018, when states and counties across the country began efforts to hold members of the family accountable for Purdue’s actions. The largest gifts in that span went to Imperial College London, the University of Sussex and Yale University.

Overall, at least two dozen universities received gifts from the Sacklers since 2013, and they ranged from $25,000 to over $10 million.

The largest recipients since 2013 were Rockefeller University, which received $11 million, and the University of Sussex in England, with about $10 million. The University of Sussex clarified that the school only received about $4 million over the past decade, and that another pledge "was not progressed."

Tel Aviv University said Tuesday that it considers donations on an individual basis, and will apply that policy to Sackler donations "if and when offered."

Tel Aviv University's president, while speaking at a 2013 event recognizing the Sacklers, said the family is "nothing short of a brand name" on campus and that "practically every step you take" brings you to a unit supported with Sackler funding.


Other schools have not said how they will handle any future proposals. A statement from McGill University in Montreal on Tuesday said the last donation was received in 2016. "Since then, there has been no further discussion from our end," spokeswoman Cynthia Lee said. McGill accepted about $3.2 million from 2014 through 2016.