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Sackler Trust pauses ‘all new philanthropic giving’

Dame Theresa Sackler issued a statement on behalf of the trustees (Philip Toscano/PA)
Dame Theresa Sackler issued a statement on behalf of the trustees (Philip Toscano/PA)

A trust that has donated millions to medical science, healthcare, education and the arts in the UK has announced it is pausing all new giving as it faces legal cases amid the opioid drug crisis in the US.

The Sackler Trust is run by the Sackler family, members of which own Purdue Pharma, a company selling the prescription painkiller OxyContin.

The business is facing hundreds of lawsuits in the US aiming to hold it to account for its alleged role in the country’s opioid drug crisis.

Earlier this month, a £1 million donation to the National Portrait Gallery was cancelled, and the trust has now said all philanthropic giving will temporarily cease so the issue “will not be a distraction for institutions that are applying for grants”.

Commitments that have already been made will be honoured.

Sackler Trust chairwoman Dame Theresa Sackler said in a statement issued on behalf of the trustees: “I am deeply saddened by the addiction crisis in America and support the actions Purdue Pharma is taking to help tackle the situation, whilst still rejecting the false allegations made against the company and several members of the Sackler family.

“The current press attention that these legal cases in the United States is generating has created immense pressure on the scientific, medical, educational and arts institutions here in the UK, large and small, that I am so proud to support.

“This attention is distracting them from the important work that they do.

“The trustees of the Sackler Trust have taken the difficult decision to temporarily pause all new philanthropic giving, while still honouring existing commitments.

“I remain fully committed to all the causes the Sackler Trust supports, but at this moment it is the better course for the Trust to halt all new giving until we can be confident that it will not be a distraction for institutions that are applying for grants.”

Since 2010, the Sackler Trust claims to have donated more than £60 million in support of medical science, healthcare, education and the arts in the UK.

OxyContin is a time-released opioid that was introduced in 1996.

Lawsuits against Purdue Pharma allege that the company, based in Stamford, Connecticut, sold OxyContin as a drug with a low chance of triggering addictions, despite knowing this to be not true.

According to the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, in 2017 opioids were involved in nearly 48,000 deaths.

Purdue, which denies wrongdoing, has said that its products were approved by federal regulators and prescribed by doctors.

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