Yale begins removing Sackler name from campus amid opioid outrage

Purdue Pharma this month reached a nationwide settlement of lawsuits over its painkillers’ role in the crisis, with Sackler family members agreeing to pay out as much as $6bn themselves.

Yale University has begun removing the Sackler name from its campus, several years after announcing it would no longer accept donations from the family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma.

The Ivy League university, about 65km (40 miles) from Purdue’s headquarters in Stamford, Connecticut, is the latest institution to distance itself from the family amid outrage over its role in the opioid crisis.

Yale, which received more than $1m in donations from the family, last month reassigned an employee from the David A Sackler Professorship of Pharmacology and has no plans to fill academic posts named for the Sacklers, University Spokesperson Karen Peart said Friday.

“In 2021, the university made a decision to pursue a separation from the Sackler name and has been actively working on specific plans consistent with that decision which we expect to announce soon. No Yale faculty member currently holds a Sackler chair,” Peart said.

Yale’s decision was first reported by the Yale Daily News.

Purdue Pharma this month reached a nationwide settlement of lawsuits over its painkillers’ role in the opioid crisis, with Sackler family members agreeing to pay out as much as $6bn themselves. Some family members were confronted by victims of the crisis at a long-awaited hearing that was held Thursday by videoconference.

The Sacklers donated tens of millions of dollars to prestigious universities even as state governments began efforts to hold members of the family accountable for Purdue’s actions. In recent years, donor recipients, including New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and some colleges, have dropped the Sackler name.

Dr Andrew Kolodny, a critic of Purdue and the Sacklers who has testified against the company in court, said he is not aware of any universities that have returned Sackler donations or tried to use the money to address the opioid crisis.

“Universities and others that have taken money from the Sacklers should be thinking about this as blood money. It’s tainted. It’s not enough to simply take the name down and keep the money in your pocket,” said Kolodny, who leads a program on opioid policy at Brandeis University.

Peart did not respond to a question about Yale’s intentions with the money donated by the Sacklers.

The pharmacology professor who held the David Sackler Professorship will be assigned to another chair, Peart said. Gifts from Raymond and Beverly Sackler funded a Sackler Institute for physics, engineering and biology that has since been restructured. And the Richard and Jonathan Sackler Professorship in Internal Medicine, established in 2009, has not been assigned since a professor left the university in 2015, the Daily News reported.

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