Tufts University is distancing itself from the Sackler family, who owns OxyContin-maker Purdue Pharma, a company long accused of fueling the ongoing U.S. opioid crisis by pushing doctors to over-prescribe narcotic pain killers.
It will remove the Sackler name from all its facilities effective immediately.
“The Tufts University School of Medicine’s values include a commitment to relieve suffering, improve quality of life and promote integrity and social responsibility,” President Anthony Monaco said in a statement. “Given the human toll of the opioid epidemic, in which members of the Sackler family and their company Purdue Pharma are associated, it is clear that continuing to display the Sackler name is inconsistent with these values.”
The removal will impact the Boston school’s health sciences campus, as the Sackler name is not present elsewhere on the property, a Tufts spokesperson told FOX Business.
The Sacklers contributed $15 million during a period of more than 30 years to Tufts, according to a report in the Boston Globe. In exchange for the donation, the family name was displayed across the campus. And while there is no evidence that the now-defunct relationship affected academics, an outside report from former U.S. Attorney Donald Stern said, “there was an appearance of too close a relationship between Purdue, the Sacklers and Tufts.”
Sackler attorney, Daniel Connolly, rejected that claim. He said Purdue and its owners had no wrongdoing in their relationship with Tufts and the decision to remove the Sackler name is based on untried allegations.
“We will be seeking to have this decision reversed,” he said.
And in a statement to FOX Business, Jillian Sackler, Arthur Sackler's widow, said, "Arthur had nothing to do with OxyContin. The man has been dead for 32 years. He did not profit from OxyContin, and none of his philanthropic gifts were in any way connected to opioids or to deceptive medical marketing, which he likewise had nothing to do with. It deeply saddens me to witness Arthur being blamed for actions taken by his brothers and other OxySacklers.”
This is the first time Tufts has removed a donor name from one of its buildings but it joins a growing list of institutions putting the family at bay. The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Columbia University, for example, have said they would stop accepting Sackler money.
Several more universities, on the other hand, including Harvard University and Yale University, have resisted calls to remove the Sackler name from their campuses, despite calls from Massachusetts senator and presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren to do so.
Neither school immediately responded to a request for comment from FOX Business.
For its part, Tufts said it will “take steps to increase its support of programs aimed at the prevention and treatment of substance abuse and addiction,” including the establishment of a $3 million endowment to support education, research and civic engagement programs geared toward the prevention and treatment of substance abuse and addiction.
About 130 Americans die every day from opioid-related drug overdoses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In September, President Donald Trump announced $1.8 billion in grants to help states fight the U.S. opioid epidemic.
This story was updated on 12/6/2019 to include a comment from Jilian Sackler.