Prescription Blizzard Favorite 



Feb 9 2019


New York City

The scraps of paper swirled through the Guggenheim Museum in New York on Saturday night like confetti, thrown from an upper walkway into the central rotunda before floating to the ground.

Designed to look like prescription slips for OxyContin, the powerful opioid painkiller, they were part of the latest protest targeting cultural institutions that accept donations from members of the Sackler family who own Purdue Pharma, the maker of the drug.

Education facilities at the Guggenheim, including a theater and an exhibition gallery, are housed inside the 8,200-square-foot Sackler Center for Arts Education, identified by the museum as “a gift of the Mortimer D. Sackler Family.”

The cloud of white slips, created by a group founded by the photographer Nan Goldin, was a response to a recently disclosed statement by Richard Sackler, the son of a Purdue founder, who said years ago that OxyContin’s launch would be “followed by a blizzard of prescriptions that will bury the competition.”

“The prescription blizzard will be so deep, dense and white,” added Mr. Sackler, then a Purdue senior vice president, according to a lawsuit filed by the Massachusetts attorney general’s office.

The lawsuit says some Sackler family members directed years of efforts to mislead doctors and patients about the dangers of OxyContin, which has generated enormous profits while more than 200,000 people in the United States have died from overdoses related to prescription opioids.

Purdue has denied wrongdoing and said the court filings contain inaccuracies, adding that the company is working to curtail the misuse of prescription painkillers. A representative for members of the Sackler family who own Purdue could not immediately be reached.

Those members of the Sackler family with connections to Purdue have been largely reticent about that relationship. Some have held positions within family foundations that have given tens of millions of dollars to institutions like the Guggenheim and the Albert and Victoria Museum in London.

Other members of the Sackler family, including some who donate to art organizations, have said they have no ownership stake in Purdue and have not profited from OxyContin.

Recent reports suggesting that the family was far more involved than the company has long contended led to Saturday’s event by Prescription Addiction Intervention Now, the group Ms. Goldin founded after recovering from three years of addiction to OxyContin.

Last year the group staged a protest inside the Metropolitan Museum of Art, which has received donations from members of the Sackler family.

“The Sacklers have premeditatedly gotten people addicted for profit,” Ms. Goldin said after the Guggenheim demonstration. She added that protests would continue until museums stopped accepting money from members of the Sackler family, stopped using the family’s name and made “strong statements” acknowledging those decisions.

Members of the group said they were starting a campaign to lobby organizations, including the Guggenheim, the Met, the American Museum of Natural History and the Dia Art Foundation, to take those steps.

After leaving the Guggenheim, several dozen people marched down Fifth Avenue carrying a banner that read “Shame on Sackler.” They stopped outside the Met, where some of them spoke about the toll that opioid addiction has taken.

The Guggenheim did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Last month the Met issued a statement saying the Sackler family has been connected with the museum for more than a half-century, decades before the opioid crisis.

“The Met is currently engaging in a further review of our detailed gift acceptance policies,” the statement added. “And we will have more to report in due course.”

By Colin Moynihan
Feb. 9, 2019
New York Times

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