Monday, January 17

Museums don’t want the money or the Sackler family name anymore

When entering a room in the Metropolitan Museum of New York (Met), many visitors may not even notice the sign announcing that they are in the “Sackler Wing.” They cannot be blamed. The more than 3,000-year-old Egyptian temple is more striking, transported stone by stone to New York and mounted next to a spectacular window to give it all the light of Central Park. The temple is still there but for a few days the sign has not. Although tourists probably remain unnoticed, his disappearance is a small victory for the half million Americans who have died from an opioid drug overdose. Among them was the drug that made the Sacklers so rich, OxyContin.

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The museum is the last of the world’s temples of culture that, belatedly and reluctantly, has brushed off the Sackler name. It’s been two years since the Louvre in Paris renamed his Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiquities and the Jewish Museum in Berlin has also renamed its Sackler staircase. But even in taking this step, the Met has done so without raising many blisters, with its director praising “the generous gesture of the Sacklers” not to fault it and remembering that the family “has been one of the most generous benefactors” in the history of the institution.

So much adulation only highlights the complex relationship of many great museums with the select group of billionaires who are willing to spend money on art and not to hang it in their halls. Half a century ago the Sackler brothers donated to the Met the equivalent of 16 million euros today to build the wing that bore his name. It is difficult that those responsible for the museum have not wondered if the next time they need to bring an Egyptian temple in New York, the millionaire on duty will remember that the previous one who put money had his name erased when the thing went wrong.

That of the Sacklers, yes, no longer can be fixed. Even institutions that have refused to rename their rooms or elevators, such as the British Museum wave Tate modern in London, they no longer accept your money. The involvement of artists such as the photographer Nan Goldin, who was close to dying from an overdose of opiates and has starred spectacular protests in several large museums, have made it impossible for any great institution in the art world to continue receiving money from the Sacklers.

The lies of the family business

The three Sackler brothers grew up in Brooklyn, New York, the children of Polish Jewish immigrants. The three of them became doctors and bought the small pharmacy Purdue in 1952. However, the real specialty of the older brother, Arthur, It was not so much science as commercial workBefore working at Purdue, he was already advertising medications using non-existent doctor business cards and had a senior official from the drug agency on the payroll to help him with promotions. It also “hooked” millions of Americans who did not have psychiatric conditions to tranquilizers, without even doing a study of whether they created addiction. All the practices that years later, after Arthur died, his brothers and nephews would repeat with the OxyContin.

In the early 1990s, Purdue desperately needed a pitch. The patent for one of its most successful drugs was going to expire and that was going to leave a significant hole in the company’s accounts. He certainly succeeded with OxyContin, which was touted among doctors as a revolutionary pain reliever and was an opiate that could be used for long periods of time because it had a mechanism that supposedly reduced addiction. This was certified by an inspector from the US drug agency (FDA) who two years later was working in a senior position for the Sacklers.

The launch campaign The OxyContin was made by choosing cities with large working populations, where work-related injuries and chronic pain were most common, and offering free trial doses. The target was the family doctors, not the specialists, whom the Purdue salespeople promised that OxyContin was “practically non-addictive” and they were given studies, paid for by the company, where it was explained that if some patients experienced symptoms similar to withdrawal, it was not because they were developing an addiction, but because they had “unrelieved pain” and that was solved with higher doses. A round business.

Five years after it went up for sale, the sale of OxyContin gave Purdue the equivalent of $ 1.6 billion a year today. Since the company was not publicly traded, but owned by the Sackler family, it became one of the richest in the world, allowing them to donate even more money. Among the beneficiaries There were not only museums, but also some of the best universities in the world, theater or ballet companies and even lThe restoration of Westminster Abbey in London. And with all that, the family fortune is still calculated in just under 10,000 million of euros. As far as it is known, they have not given a euro to help people struggling with addictions.

Thousands of deaths a year

Meanwhile, the ravages of OxyContin continue to be felt. About 50,000 Americans die each year for opioid drug overdoses and 1.7 million are addicted. There are places where even 20% of newborns come into the world already hooked by the consumption of their mothers. The black market has flourished, but when they can’t find doses, the withdrawal syndrome leads them to try other drugs: Nearly half of Americans who use heroin today started with drugs like OxyContin.

A few months ago, the Sacklers they got engaged to give up ownership of the pharmaceutical company Purdue and to pay a little over 3.8 billion euros to avoid going to new lawsuits. It’s less than half of what they got from the sale of opioid drugs. According to the agreement, they did not have to take any blame or apologize to the victims, but they would not be able to name any cultural space after years. But this Thursday a judge in New York annulled the agreement that ensured that the Sacklers would not have to face further complaints. The multi-state prosecutor’s office also goes to appeal to demand more responsibilities.