The Sackler Trust, a London-based philanthropy funded by the family that owns Purdue Pharma, has announced that it is temporarily suspending new charitable donations in the United Kingdom amid claims the family fortune is linked to the opioid crisis in the United States. The Dr. Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation, a separate charitable organization related to other members of the family, also announced plans to suspend new grantmaking, ArtNet reports.
In a lawsuit filed by Massachusetts attorney general Maura Healey, current and former executives of Purdue Pharma and members of the Sackler family are accused of profiting from the addictive nature of opioids by aggressively marketing OxyContin, an opioid-based pain medication. A 2007 multistate federal suit accusing Purdue Pharma of "misleading and defrauding physicians and consumers" was settled for $600 million as part of a plea deal. In recent weeks, protests have been held at museums that have received gifts from the Sackler family, including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. As a result, the Guggenheim has said it does not plan to accept any more gifts from the Sacklers, while the New York Academy of Sciences, Columbia University, and several other institutions are reviewing their relationship with the family. Last week, the National Portrait Gallery in London announced that it would not proceed with a £1 million ($1.3 million) gift from the Sackler Trust, while the Tate said it would not accept any further donations from the family.
According to the BBC, the Sackler Trust has committed £60 million ($79 million) to a range of institutions and organizations since 2010, including the University of Sussex, Moorfields Eye Hospital, and Imperial College London, as well as the Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Gallery.
"I am deeply saddened by the addiction crisis in America and support the actions Purdue Pharma is taking to help tackle the situation, whilst still rejecting the false allegations made against the company and several members of the Sackler family," Sackler Trust board chair Dame Theresa Sackler said in a statement. "The current press attention that these legal cases in the United States is generating has created immense pressure on the scientific, medical, educational, and arts institutions here in the UK, large and small, that I am so proud to support. This attention is distracting them from the important work that they do."