New York University’s Langone Medical Center will remove the Sackler family name from its Institute of Graduate Biomedical Sciences after the US Department of Justice announced last week (October 21) that Purdue Pharma, founded by the Sackler family, would plead guilty to three criminal charges for its role in the opioid epidemic.
“Given the Sackler family’s association with Purdue Pharma and its role in encouraging opioid overuse, we view continuing to use the Sackler name as inconsistent with our institution’s values and incompatible with our mission,” university officials wrote in a statement, according to the Associated Press.
Purdue, which makes the painkiller OxyContin, will plead guilty to conspiring to defraud the United States and violating federal anti-kickback laws as part of a settlement for more than $8 billion. The deal does not release the company’s executives, nor the Sacklers, from criminal liability, and a criminal investigation is ongoing.
Daniel Connolly, a lawyer for members of the Sackler family, criticized the decision by New York University (NYU). “As soon as Purdue documents are released they will show the company’s history and that members of the Sackler family who served on the board of directors always acted ethically and lawfully, so it is disappointing that NYU is rushing to judgment,” Connolly tells the AP.
Named after the family since its founding in 1980, the institute formally ceased accepting new donations from the Sacklers last summer.
In stripping the Sackler name, NYU joins institutions such as the Louvre and Tufts University, which was one of the first major institutions to do so last December. Universities have increasingly faced pressure to rename buildings and return money from patrons with disgraceful behavior.