2 more organizations will review financial ties to Purdue Pharma: 5 notes

The New York Academy of Sciences and Columbia University, both in New York City,  are joining the list of universities and nonprofits reviewing their philanthropic ties to Purdue Pharma and its owners, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Five things to know:

1. The Sackler family, founders of Purdue Pharma, was ranked the 19th-richest family in America in 2016 with a net worth of $13 billion. As the family gained its wealth, it began supporting organizations with donations. While all of the family's philanthropic efforts are unclear, it is known that millions have been given away by various family entities. 

A spokesman for Sackler family members said, "For more than half a century, several generations of Sacklers have supported respected institutions that play crucial roles in health, research, education, the arts and the humanities. It has been a privilege to support the vital work of these organizations and we remain dedicated to doing so."

2. The Sackler family has been under scrutiny since January, when unsealed documents were released in the lawsuit against Purdue Pharma brought by the Massachusetts attorney general. Eight Sackler family members are accused of contributing to the state's opioid epidemic through aggressive marketing of OxyContin. The lawsuit also claims Purdue Pharma's former president, Richard Sackler, MD, knew his company's opioid painkiller OxyContin was being abused, but still pushed sales to physicians and tried to divert blame to patients for becoming addicted.

3. The lawsuit also revealed that Purdue Pharma formed relationships with two Boston-based organizations — Massachusetts General Hospital and Tufts University School of Medicine — to boost prescription rates and generate goodwill toward opioids as painkillers. Both organizations are  reviewing the ties and allegations.

4. Now, two more organizations are joining the list. The New York Academy of Sciences is home of the Sackler Institute for Nutrition Science, which is supported by a Sackler foundation. The family's philanthropy is now under discussion with the academy's leadership.

5. Similar discussions are also occurring at Columbia University.  The Sackler family has donated funds to the university to establish a professorship, several wards and an institute in the psychiatry department. The university said it is not currently accepting donations from Sackler-related entities.

"We have re-evaluated accepting donations from the Sackler family's philanthropies and are not taking gifts from them," a university spokesman told the WSJ.

Read the full report here.


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