Phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal pi­o­neer helped fund mu­se­ums, sci­ence and art glob­ally

The Washington Post Sunday - - OBITUARIES - RAY­MOND SACKLER, 97 BY EMILY LANGER emily.langer@wash­

Ray­mond Sackler, one of three broth­ers who built the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany that in­tro­duced and mar­keted the painkiller Oxy­Con­tin, and who used his wealth with his broth­ers to be­come prom­i­nent bene­fac­tors of sci­ence and the arts in the United States and be­yond, died July 17 in Green­wich, Conn. He was 97.

John Puskar, a spokesman for Pur­due Pharma, the Sack­lers’ Stamford, Conn.-based fam­ily firm, con­firmed the death but did not pro­vide other de­tails.

Sackler was the youngest and last sur­viv­ing of three psy­chi­a­trist broth­ers whose names grace mu­seum wings, med­i­cal in­sti­tutes, pro­fes­sor­ships and aca­demic and cul­tural prizes in the United States, Europe, Is­rael and Asia.

His old­est brother, the name­sake of the Smith­so­nian In­sti­tu­tion’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of Asian art in Wash­ing­ton, died in 1987. His younger brother, Mor­timer D. Sackler, died in 2010. To­gether the broth­ers funded the Sackler Wing at the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Mu­seum of Art in New York City, which fea­tures the Tem­ple of Den­dur from an­cient Egypt.

The Sackler broth­ers — sons of Jewish im­mi­grants from East­ern Europe who ran a gro­cery — spent their early med­i­cal ca­reers at the Creed­mor state psy­chi­atric hos­pi­tal in the New York City bor­ough of Queens. In the 1950s and 1960s, they helped demon­strate the chem­i­cal man­i­fes­ta­tions of men­tal ill­ness and the po­ten­tial of chem­i­cal treat­ments to sup­ple­ment or re­place meth­ods such as elec­troshock ther­apy.

In 1952, they took over Pur­due Fred­er­ick, a small New York phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany that grew into Pur­due Pharma and would make them one of the rich­est fam­i­lies in the United States.

Once known for prod­ucts such as the an­ti­sep­tic Be­ta­dine, the lax­a­tive Senokot and the earwax re­mover Cerumenex, Pur­due Pharma be­came most fa­mous for Oxy­Con­tin, an opi­oid pro­duced from a syn­thetic form of mor­phine that was in­tro­duced in the mid-1990s. Sales of the drug pro­duced more than $3 bil­lion in rev­enue in 2010, ac­cord­ing to For­tune mag­a­zine.

Em­ploy­ing a strat­egy de­vel­oped by the then-de­ceased Arthur Sackler, the com­pany pitched the drug to physi­cians through jun­kets and other pro­mo­tional ef­forts, tout­ing what they de­scribed as its min­i­mal po­ten­tial for ad­dic­tion.

Oxy­Con­tin was de­signed to be re­leased slowly into the sys­tem, avoid­ing the highs that made other painkillers ad­dic­tive.

Pre­scrip­tion drug abusers, how­ever, learned to sub­vert the drug’s in­tended slow re­lease by crush­ing and snort­ing it or by dis­solv­ing it into an in­jectable liq­uid. Although physi­cians de­scribe the drug as ef­fec­tive and help­ful in ap­pro­pri­ate cir­cum­stances, Oxy­Con­tin is widely cited as a chief fac­tor in the opi­oid ad­dic­tion in the United States.

In 2007, the hold­ing com­pany for Pur­due Pharma pleaded guilty in fed­eral court to a felony charge of mis­brand­ing for mis­lead­ing con­sumers about Oxy­Con­tin’s ad­dic­tive po­ten­tial.

The com­pany agreed to pay $600 mil­lion, one of the largest such fines ever levied on a drug com­pany.

None of the Sackler broth­ers faced charges of mis­con­duct, but three com­pany ex­ec­u­tives were fined $34.5 mil­lion af­ter plead­ing guilty to mis­de­meanor mis­brand­ing.

Pur­due Pharma later was cred­ited with con­tribut­ing to ef­forts to com­bat opi­oid ad­dic­tion by of­fer­ing re­wards for re­ports of drug abuse and by fi­nanc­ing ini­tia­tives in­clud­ing ad­dic­tion hot­lines and pre­scrip­tion mon­i­tor­ing pro­grams.

Ray­mond Raphael Sackler was born in Brook­lyn on Feb. 16, 1920. Af­ter re­ceiv­ing a bach­e­lor’s de­gree from New York University in 1938, he fol­lowed his brother Mor­timer to Scot­land, where they stud­ied at the Anderson Col­lege of Medicine in Glas­gow.

The Lon­don Daily Tele­graph cred­ited Ray­mond Sackler with serv­ing in the United King­dom’s home guard, in­clud­ing as a plane spot­ter in World War II.

He com­pleted his med­i­cal train­ing in 1944 at the now-de­funct Mid­dle­sex University School of Medicine in Waltham, Mass.

Dr. Sackler funded in­sti­tutes in­clud­ing the Sackler School of Medicine at Tel Aviv University and the Ray­mond and Bev­erly Sackler Cen­ter for Bio­med­i­cal and Phys­i­cal Sci­ences at Weill Cor­nell Med­i­cal Col­lege in New York, as well as med­i­cal re­search at in­sti­tu­tions in­clud­ing Me­mo­rial Sloan Ket­ter­ing Cancer Cen­ter and Columbia University in New York, Har­vard University, Yale University, Tufts University in Mas­sachusetts and the University of Cam­bridge in Eng­land.

The Sack­lers funded as­tro­nom­i­cal re­search in the United States and in Europe, where Dr. Sackler’s hon­ors in­cluded a knight­hood be­stowed on him by Queen El­iz­a­beth II.

The cul­tural in­sti­tu­tions he sup­ported in­cluded the Bri­tish Mu­seum, the Royal Academy of Arts, and the Tate Mod­ern, all in Lon­don, and the Met­ro­pol­i­tan Opera in New York.

Sur­vivors in­clude his wife of 73 years, the for­mer Bev­erly Feld­man; and two sons, Richard Sackler and Jonathan Sackler.


Ray­mond Sackler, a founder of the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal com­pany that makes Oxy­Con­tin, and a lead­ing phi­lan­thropist, died Mon­day in Green­wich, Conn. He was 97. At right is his wife, Bev­erly.

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