Earlier this summer, NYU Langone ceased to accept donations from the Sacklers — the powerful family that owns Purdue Pharma, a company that manufactures OxyContin. However, the name of Sackler Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences, named for the family, has not been changed.
Purdue Pharma is currently being sued by 48 states that have accused the company and its owners of practicing unsafe marketing practices by downplaying the risks of addiction to OxyContin while exaggerating its benefits. With many states now feeling the effects of the opioid crisis — nearly 218,000 people have died in the United States from prescription opioid overdoses between 1999 and 2017, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — Langone has joined institutions such as the Tate Galleries and Guggenheim Museum in publicly stating that they will no longer accept donations from the Sacklers.
NYU Langone’s connection with the Sackler family goes back to 1980, when the Sackler Institute was named after the family. However, a spokesperson said that Langone has not accepted donations for almost a decade.
“We have not taken a donation from the Sackler family since 2010,” a spokesperson from NYU Langone Health told WSN. “We have decided we will not be accepting new donations from the Sackler family or any Sackler-related entities.”
The spokesperson did not comment on whether or not Langone would consider changing their graduate school’s name.
NYU has been criticized by students and others in the past for buildings named after controversial figures. A student activist group demanded Bobst Library be renamed in 2016 due to the library’s namesake, Elmer Holmes Bobst, being an anti-Semite and accused pedophile. After Michael Steinhardt was accused of sexually harassing multiple women, some students expressed support for renaming the Steinhardt School of Education, Culture and Human Development. Despite this, the university has never expressed any intention to rename the buildings.
Like Michael Steinhardt, the Sacklers have donated significant amounts to other institutions as well. Because of this, NYU Langone isn’t the only institution to take the name of the powerful family.
The Old Royal Naval College in London has the Sackler Gallery, and the Louvre has the Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiques. Oxford University has a Sackler Library, Columbia University has a Sackler Institute and you can even find a Sackler Wing in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The National Institute on Drug Abuse listed false marketing as a major cause of the opioid crisis, including the allegations against Purdue Pharma. This has resulted in many institutions cutting off relations with the Sacklers, but none have removed the family name thus far.
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Aug. 26, 2019, print edition. Email Julia Baxley at [email protected]