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Opioid Activists Want Drug Marketer’s Name Gone From Harvard Building; Widow Says He’s Not To Blame

April 17, 2019

Dozens of protesters from opioid-death grief groups showed up outside a Harvard art museum calling for the university to remove the name of a drug manufacturer who donated most of the money to build it.

Arthur M. Sackler (1913-1987), a psychiatrist, made a fortune directly marketing drugs such as Valium to physicians. His brothers used his money and his methods after he died to market OxyContin, an addictive opioid painkiller widely blamed for the current widespread drug abuse problem.

“Shame on you — every single one of you — for not having a conscience,” said Cheryl Juaire, founder of grief group Team Sharing Massachusetts, during a rally Friday, April 12 outside the Arthur M. Sackler Museum, according to The Harvard Crimson.

Sackler’s third wife, Jillian Sackler, survives him. She wrote a column last week in The Washington Post defending him, without defending OxyContin or the company that makes it. Instead, she noted that Arthur Sackler died a decade before OxyContin was invented.

“Neither Arthur nor his heirs had anything to do with the manufacture or marketing of OxyContin. Suggestions that his philanthropy is now somehow tainted are simply false,” Jillian Sackler wrote in the column published Thursday, April 11. “… Arthur is not here to answer back, but I can tell you that blaming him for OxyContin’s marketing, or for any other wrongdoing by the pharmaceutical industry, is as ludicrous as blaming the inventor of the mimeograph for email spam.”

Harvard has so far resisted calls to remove Sackler’s name from the building.

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