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Sackler Family, Purdue Pharma Settle $275 M. Opioid Lawsuit

Purdue Pharma headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut.

JESSICA HILL/AP/REX/SHUTTERSTOCK

Just one day after news broke that the Sackler Trust, an organization that provides funding to British arts institutions, would “temporarily pause” giving gifts, the New York Times reported on Tuesday that Purdue Pharma, a company that produces the drug OxyContin, and the Sackler family, members of which own the company, have settled a lawsuit brought against them by the state of Oklahoma. The family and company will reportedly pay $275 million as a result.

Over the years, the Sackler family has been a force in the field of arts philanthropy, funding wings, architectural additions, centers, and initiatives at museums across the world. Among the many museums that have accepted gifts from the family are Tate and the Serpentine Galleries in London and the Guggenheim Museum in New York.

In the past couple years, activists have begun protesting museums’ decisions to continue accepting Sackler funds by calling attention to the family’s connections to Purdue Pharma, which many reports have said is, in part, responsible for the current opioid crisis, because of its production and marketing of OxyContin. Prescription Addiction Intervention Now (P.A.I.N.), an activist group founded by artist Nan Goldin, has been key in this respect, has staged protests against the Sacklers and Purdue at the Met, the Guggenheim, the Harvard Art Museums, and elsewhere.

Last week brought news that the Sackler Trust and the National Portrait Gallery had called off a £1 million ($1.32 million) donation, causing several other museums to make similar announcements. In the next few days, Tate and the Guggenheim both said that their institutions would cease accepting Sackler money.

The lawsuit settled on Tuesday is one of several against the Sackler family and Purdue currently pending. On Sunday, more than 600 cities, counties, and Native American tribes filed suit against eight of the family’s members, alleging that the family marketed OxyContin by deceptive means. The states of Massachusetts and Connecticut are also litigating suits against some family members. Both the Sacklers and Purdue have vigorously denied allegations levied against them.

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