The University of Sussex has failed to specify whether it has received any further funds from the Sackler family since their £4 million donation to the University in 2010.
The Sackler family, whose wealth primarily comes from their company Purdue Pharma, has long been accused of triggering the opioid crisis in the United States of America through its promotion of OxyContin, a painkiller first launched in 1996 that is stronger than morphine.
Almost a decade ago, the University of Sussex was in receipt of a reported £4 million from the Dr. Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation, which funded the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science on campus.
According to the Centre’s website, it “pursues a powerful multidisciplinary approach to clinical intervention and diagnosis, based on the science of the complex brain networks that give rise to consciousness.’”
According to the University, the Centre: “brings together world-leading academics and researchers dedicated to gaining an enhanced understanding of consciousness science.
“The centre aims to inform clinical intervention to a wide range of neurological and psychiatric disorders that can severely impact society, such as depression, schizophrenia and dementia.”
An investigation last year by London’s Evening Standard found that Sussex had refused to rule out accepting future Sackler funding.
When The Badger posed the same question to the University regarding 2019 funding, a spokesperson commented: “We are of course monitoring the US legal situation, as you would rightly expect – and the University regularly reviews its philanthropic funding.”
Richard Sackler (son of Raymond Sackler) was quoted in court documents as boasting that the drug would be so well marketed it would be “followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition”.
Purdue Pharma’s sales of OxyContin reached $1 billion only a few years after the drug’s initial introduction.
In 2018, The Guardian reported that the drug was “at the center of an opioid epidemic that kills almost 200 people a day across America”.
In 2007 Purdue Pharma paid out over $600 million in fines over its ‘misbranding’ of OxyContin, with three executives pleading guilty to criminal charges and additional fines.
In a past statement the company said: “Nearly six years and longer ago, some employees made, or told other employees to make, certain statements about OxyContin to some health care professionals that were inconsistent with the F.D.A-approved prescribing information for OxyContin and the express warnings it contained about risks associated with the medicine.
“The statements also violated written company policies requiring adherence to the prescribing inform that they were made.
“We accept responsibility for those past misstatements and regret that they were made. During the past six years, we have implemented changes to our internal training, compliance and monitoring systems that seek to assure that similar events do not occur again”, they added.
Recent protests in America are concerned with the amount of funding the Sackler family have given to institutions, galleries and hospitals.
The family’s charitable funding of UK Universities is not limited to Sussex alone, however, as an investigation by the Evening Standard found both the University of Oxford and King’s College London have been in receipt of funding.
Recent protest in America has brought the debate over the Sackler family’s funding back into light, with US art photographer Nan Goldin bringing the Guggenheim to a standstill over a fortnight ago.
Urging the Guggenheim to reject Sackler funding, Goldin’s group P.A.I.N (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now), formed after Goldin publicly admitted her own battle with opioid addiction, adorned the walls with banners reading ‘Shame on Sackler’ and ‘take down their name’.
The protestors also threw a flurry of ‘prescriptions’ over the walls of the museum highlighting their protest of the drug. Goldin threatened to bring the protest to Britain’s National Portrait Gallery by boycotting her own retrospective if it accepts a Sackler gift of £1 million.