Tufts University removed the Sackler name from five facilities and programs on its Massachusetts campuses Thursday, citing the family’s alleged role in the nation’s ongoing opioid crisis. As owners of Purdue Pharma, the maker of the controversial painkiller OxyContin, the Sackler family is embroiled in a legal battle concerning the overdose deaths of hundreds of thousands of people from OxyContin and opioids like it.
“Our alumni, our board of advisers all have been troubled by the fact that we’ve got the Sackler name all over the place,” Tufts School of Medicine Dean Harris A. Berman said. “I think there’s going to be a great sigh of relief among all of them that we’ve finally done the right thing. Certainly, I feel that way.”
He described how students and faculty pressed for the change, complaining that the Sackler name had become synonymous with the opioid epidemic and thereby at odds with the mission of the medical school in Boston. Tufts has endured increasing criticism over the past year for being too closely linked with both the billionaire family and Purdue Pharma.
“It was emotional, not only for the cause, but because I lost my sister to the opioid epidemic, and it felt like a big win for her,” first-year Tufts medical student Nicholas Verdini told The New York Times.
But Jillian Sackler, widow of Arthur M. Sackler, defended the family name, stating her husband has been dead for 32 years. “He did not profit from it,” she said “and none of his philanthropic gifts were in any way connected to opioids or to deceptive medical marketing.”
All three Sackler brothers—Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond—and their families have donated generously to other major universities over the years. Cornell and Yale universities have stopped accepting gifts from the family. In addition to stripping the Sackler name from its buildings and programs, Tufts stated it will not accept any further donations from the family. —L.E.