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David Sackler is the First to Break the Family’s Silence

— June 27, 2019

David Sackler speaks out on his family’s behalf, insisting they didn’t cause the opioid crisis, but they want to help.

David Sackler has decided to break the silence on behalf of his family who have been blamed for fueling the opioid crisis.  The Sackler family founded Purdue Pharma, the manufacturer of OxyContin, which officially came to market in 1996.  More than 400,000 Americans have since died of opioid overdoses, including 200,000 from prescription medications such as Purdue’s infamous painkiller

To date, forty-eight states, along with more than 500 cities, counties, and tribal governments, have filed lawsuits against Purdue Pharma, accusing the company of fueling the crisis.  Behind it, the plaintiffs have alleged, were deceptive marketing practices that downplayed the detrimental effects of the drug and all prescription opioids for that matter.

A lawsuit filed by Massachusetts has alleged that the Sackler family put profits above all else, continuing to push sales of longer lasting and higher doses of OxyContin even after they became aware of the potential for addiction and overdose.  “Eight people in a single family,” the Massachusetts suit states, “made the choices that caused much of the opioid epidemic.”

For just over a decade, the Sacklers have raked in $4 billion from Purdue, most of it from opioids.  And, it looks like now it will be all for naught as things continue to unravel, relationships continue to break, and the family can’t escape bad press.  Once revered for their philanthropic efforts, many of the institutions that historically received donations from the family have stopped accepting them.  Even the Metropolitan Museum of Art, whose Sackler Wing houses the famed Temple of Dendur, is now rejecting the Sacklers’ funds.  And JPMorgan Chase recently ended its long-standing business relationship with the family.  David and his fashion-designer wife, Joss, are also reportedly selling their $6.5 million apartment on the Upper East Side and moving to Palm Beach.

Photo by Anastasiia Ostapovych on Unsplash

Before the move, David, who runs a family investment office and served on Purdue’s board of directors from 2012 to August 2018, thinks it is time to speak up.

“I’m poking my head over the parapet,” he said to end the “vitriolic hyperbole” and “endless castigation” of his family.   He continued, “I have three young kids.  My four-year-old came home from nursery school and asked, ‘Why are my friends telling me that our family’s work is killing people?’”

He believes his family is being blamed for something they did not do and argued that Purdue did its best to be responsible in the face of changing science. “I understand the argument that Purdue was among the first to talk about” the supposed benefits, he said, adding, “We were.  But as the science changed, we put safeguards in place.  I really don’t think there’s much in the complaints, frankly, that’s at issue that’s not just, ‘Oh, you shouldn’t have marketed these things at all.’  Right?  And I guess that’s a hindsight debate one can have.”

His regret is that the family hasn’t come forward to break down teh barrier and voice their position sooner.  “We have not done a good job of talking about this,” he continued. “That’s what I regret the most.”  By going public, he hopes “we can begin humanizing ourselves as a family.”

When he considers what he will one day tell his children, he said, “I feel the need to answer that I told our story, I told the truth, I did the best I could, for better or for worse.”

In fact, David said his family will always be his top priority, which led to his decision to finally break their silence.  “We have so much empathy.  I’m sorry we didn’t start with that. We feel absolutely terrible. Facts will show we didn’t cause the crisis, but we want to help.  We are a group of people who love one another.  Clearly, we are together in this.”

And, together the Sacklers will continue to be held accountable for their actions as the details of each case continue to unfold.



The Sacklers helped cause the opioid epidemic. They’re still making excuses for it.

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