NYU Langone Medical Center will remove the family name Sackler from its biomedical institute after the Sackler’s company, Purdue Pharma, agreed to plead guilty to criminal charges for marketing the addictive prescription painkiller OxyContin that experts say helped touch off an opioid epidemic.
“In view of yesterday’s U.S. Department of Justice announcement of the settlement of federal criminal charges with Purdue Pharma and the civil settlement with members of the Sackler family related to the marketing of Purdue’s opioid products, NYU Langone Health will be removing the Sackler name from its Graduate Biomedical Institute, as well as other named programs,” NYU Langone officials said in a written statement.
“Given the Sackler family’s association with Purdue Pharma and its role in encouraging opioid overuse, we view continuing to use the Sackler name as inconsistent with our institution’s values and incompatible with our mission, which is dedicated to patient care, education, and research to improve human health," the statement went on to say.
NYU Langone’s ties with the Sacklers goes back to 1980, when the Sackler Institute was named after the family, however, in the summer of 2019, NYU Langone formally ceased to accept donations from the Sackler family, according to the Washington Square News, NYU's independent student newspaper.
News of the name change comes mere days after the Justice Department announced Wednesday that Purdue Pharma, the company that makes OxyContin, the powerful prescription painkiller that experts say helped touch off an opioid epidemic, will plead guilty to three federal criminal charges as part of a settlement of more than $8 billion.
The company will plead guilty to conspiracy to defraud the United States and violating federal anti-kickback laws. The resolution is detailed in a bankruptcy court filing in federal court.
The deal does not release any of the company’s executives or owners — members of the wealthy Sackler family — from criminal liability, and a criminal investigation is ongoing. But one state attorney general said the agreement fails to hold the Sacklers accountable.
The settlement is the highest-profile display yet of the federal government seeking to hold a major drugmaker responsible for an opioid addiction and overdose crisis linked to more than 470,000 deaths in the country since 2000.
Daniel S. Connolly, a lawyer for members of the Sackler family, criticized NYU’s decision to erase the Sackler name.
“As soon as Purdue documents are released they will show the company’s history and that members of the Sackler family who served on the board of directors always acted ethically and lawfully, so it is disappointing that NYU is rushing to judgment,” Connolly said.
The move to remove the Sackler name from the NYU facility follows decisions by other academic and cultural institutions to distance themselves from the Sacklers, longtime philanthropists who have been blamed in thousands of lawsuits for fueling the opioid crisis by playing down the risks of the powerful painkiller OxyContin.