The Sackler Family: A Blood Money Legacy

Google the Sackler name, and heading the results is an article by Forbes touting the Sackler’s as being the 19th wealthiest families in the United States, though it makes no mention of the blood money that built this family.

Maybe you’ve seen their names have been seen in museums and colleges all around the northeast; usually associated with prestige and adorned with antiquities. There is little mention of the immoral decisions that formed the financial stability for this American name.

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Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond were born to Jewish immigrants at the tail end of The Great Depression.

Earning prestige and prominence with wealth through various donations at the Met and other venues, their name became a staple in monuments and buildings across the midwest and northeast states. Although, that’s isn’t what earned the brother’s their most notable fame; especially Arthur.

The Godfather

Having been confined to the strict adherence of survival during the depression, Arthur craved creative freedom and financial freedom. He found this combination in the marketing world.

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Though all brothers had a medical background, including Arthur who graduated M.D. from New York School of Medicine, he was the only one who made his name in pharmaceutical marketing; and boy, was he good!

While his brothers were barely scraping by with their small laxative and earwax removal pharmaceuticals, Arthur was sequestered by Roche to spearhead the marketing campaign for a brand new miracle drug called Valium.

A drug that went on later to be the first of its kind in many respects.

  • first to reach $100 million in sales
  • first wildly prescribed benzo
  • first giant success for Arthur Sackler

As his commission directly related to the number of pills that were sold, Arthur knew he had to come up with a full-proof marketing scheme to brand this drug in a way that put some food on the table for his family. The challenge was, how to sell such a product.

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At the time, many people were scared straight by returning Vietnam vets were turning to heroin in crop numbers. No one knew was PTSD was, but they knew that if a Vietnam War vet could get through the war and still succumb to addiction, then clearly even the lowest dose pain medication was not to be taken lightly.

Arthur’s task was clearly laid out; sell an otherwise unmarketable drug.

Now referred as ‘the godfather of modern day drug advertising’, Arthur was the first to implement such sales practices as direct to consumer ads, glamorizing quick fixes, paying for slanted ‘scientific’ studies, and even sponsoring medical education courses for doctors – all expenses paid vacations. He also was the first to convince the Journal of Medical Library Association to print color pictures.

While his two brothers were busy buying up a nearly forclosed Greenwich Village pharmacy in order to form their own, Arthur was being named the 1st inductee into the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame.

Though, not to be outdone, his younger brothers were close at his heels striving for their own success and financial gain.

The Brothers

Mortimer who worked for Napp Pharmaceuticals, the company’s UK location, and Raymond, the top executive of Purdue Fredrick, the now revamped Greenwich pharmacy, began to make their own headway with Oxycontin -or rather ‘contin’ itself.

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Cicely Saunders, a hospice nurse, was more concerned with the end of one’s life and easing of one’s passage. She approached the Napp company with a fateful idea. The cancer patients in Saunder’s care were restless and in pain during the final moment’s of their lives in the event the morphine IV needed replacing. She urged the company to find a time-released way for morphine to be ingested into the body.

“Contin” became the result.

Doctors in hospices around the country foamed at the mouth for this peaceful, narcotic pain relief drug that helped ease their already dying patients into their final stages of life. In the eyes of the medical world, the chemical dependency of such a drug didn’t play a factor, when long term use was not anticipated.

Although, such as many drugs on the market, if they can be misused people will find a way to do so.

Enter Oxycontin

Much like valium, Arthur’s advertising for oxy blew the drug out of proportion. Not only by direct to consumer advertising, and having incentive programs for doctors as well as pharmacies, but also offering the same all expense paid ‘training’ retreats to tropical locations. Many physicians were summoned and given cash incentives amounting to $500 simply for showing up.

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During these courses, doctors were urged when to prescribe these drugs, how often and at what doses.

These doctors were coached to lie about the addictive qualities by downplaying the negative effects and focusing more on the miraculous symptom relief. They were even instructed to ask patients about pain, and where they would rate it on a scale of 1 to 10, directly causing a personal conflict between doctor and patient.

Arthur recognized that when patients expressed immense pain, doctors who by nature want to help would be more apt to prescribe more pills. When doctors voiced their opinions against opioid doses they were labeled “problem doctors.”

Adversely, doctors who over-prescribed the death drug were filed into a separate category; not reported to proper authorities, and in fact, hidden away.

They also started ’30 day-trial’ prices and savings cards for patients and first-time buyers. All of this after 63,000 overdose deaths in the United States.

A topic that was brought to Sackler family members and executives during their temporary research into the drug Naloxone. Otherwise known as Narcan, the drug to immediately combat overdose from Oxycontin and other similar drugs. When ranking family members found the profit of Narcan to be a cool $24 million compared to the $4 billion they make on Oxy, Purdue Pharma declined to fund more research into the life-saving drug.

By the way that is 48,000 people that died of an opioid-related overdose, just in the year 2017.

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Although the Sackler family didn’t make the Forbes list until 2015.

All indicators show the family has been raking in a hefty $4 Bil a year since their first lawsuit in 2007. Currently, more than 1,000 lawsuits remain pending, and over $2B in cash settlements have already paid. In some cases, directly from the pockets of the Sackler family themselves. It is unlikely, however, any of the family members will ever see repercussions.

As part of their 2007 settlement, perhaps a double jeopardy issue, any and all new litigations must pertain to new illegal and immoral activity after this date.

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I implore you to Google the Sackler name. Just don’t click on the Forbes article at the top of the list. Instead, find the quote where the Sackler family openly blames addicts for getting addicted to his companies deadly drug. Find the numerous redacted court documents. Look at the evidence of the money settlements, pay-offs, and political contributions.

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