Tufts hires former US attorney to probe its Purdue Pharma, Sackler family ties

Tufts University has hired Donald Stern, a former U.S. attorney, to investigate its ties to Purdue Pharma and the billionaire family that owns the OxyContin maker, according to STAT.

The decision to hire Mr. Stern comes after allegations emerged in a court filing that Purdue Pharma sought a partnership with the Boston medical school to generate goodwill toward opioids as painkillers and boost prescription rates.

Purdue Pharma's ties to Tufts date to 1980, when the Sackler family, which owns the drugmaker, donated funding to establish the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences. In 1999 the Sacklers gave money to start the Tufts Masters of Science in Pain Research Education and Policy.

Through the master's degree program, "Purdue got to control research on the treatment of pain coming out of a prominent and respected institution of learning," the filing stated.

Further, according to the court documents, Tufts University hired a Purdue Pharma employee in 2011 to serve as an adjunct associate professor, and Purdue Pharma-written materials were approved for lectures in 2014. A Purdue Pharma staff member was also sent to Tufts as recently as 2017. At that time, Purdue's sales team stationed in the area were congratulated for "penetrating this account."

"The anguish that opioids have inflicted on so many individuals and families is tragic and deserves our serious attention," Tufts President Tony Monaco wrote in a letter to the Tufts community, according to STAT. "I strongly believe it is important to both our university and those who have suffered as a result of the opioid crisis to investigate these allegations thoroughly."

Tufts already started an internal review in January after the court filings emerged.

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