Sackler Family Members Fight Removal of Name at Tufts, Calling It a ‘Breach’

Sackler Family Members Fight Removal of Name at Tufts, Calling It a ‘Breach’

There were three Sackler brothers, all of whom made gifts to Tufts, and different branches of the family have responded differently to Tufts’ decision.

A third brother, Arthur, is widely credited with shaping modern medical advertising, but he died before OxyContin was introduced and his brothers purchased his stake in the company. His widow, Jillian Sackler, released a statement emphasizing that her husband had no involvement with OxyContin and saying, “It deeply saddens me to witness Arthur being blamed for actions taken by his brothers and other OxySacklers.”

Michael Ward Stout, a lawyer who has worked with museums, said that an institution’s right to withdraw from a naming agreement depended on the terms of the contract. He said that when Lincoln Center in New York wanted to change the name of Avery Fisher Hall, the home of the New York Philharmonic, in order to attract a major gift for its renovation, officials paid the Fisher family $15 million for permission to drop the name. (Mr. Fisher’s original gift to support the hall, in 1973, had been $10 million.)

In some cases, like that one, “You can buy yourself out of it,” he said.

In 2018, the Massachusetts attorney general filed a civil complaint against eight members of the Sackler family, along with Purdue and numerous Purdue executives and directors, saying that the company had misled doctors and patients about the risks of OxyContin.

In a court filing this past January, the attorney general asserted that the Sacklers and Purdue had used their relationship with Tufts to promote use of OxyContin by gaining access to local doctors and trying to influence research about pain treatment.

In response to the filing, Tufts commissioned Donald K. Stern, a former United States attorney, to undertake an independent review of the university’s relationship to the Sacklers and Purdue.

The review, which was released on the same day that Tufts said it would jettison the Sackler name, found that in most cases money from the Sacklers and Purdue went to programs unrelated to pain treatment and opioids; in other cases, it said, there was no evidence the donations materially skewed academic programs.

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