Top Colleges Kept Taking Sacklers' Money

At least nine schools accepted donations in the past two years
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 3, 2019 7:15 PM CDT
Colleges Took Sacklers' Money as Opioid Suits Mounted
People walk around Oxford University's campus in Oxford, England. Tax and charity records show that prestigious universities around the world, including Oxford, have accepted at least $60 million from the family that owns OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma over the past five years, even as the company has...   (AP Photo/Caroline Spiezio, File)

(Newser) – Prestigious universities around the world have accepted at least $60 million over the past five years from the family that owns the maker of OxyContin, even as the company became embroiled in lawsuits related to the opioid epidemic, financial records show. Some of the donations arrived before recent lawsuits blaming Purdue Pharma for its role in the opioid crisis. But at least nine schools accepted gifts in 2018 or later, when states and counties across the country began efforts to hold members of the family accountable for Purdue’s actions. The largest gifts in that span went to Imperial College London, the University of Sussex and Yale University. Major beneficiaries of Sackler family foundations also include the University of Oxford in England and Rockefeller, Cornell and Columbia universities in New York, according to tax and charity records reviewed by the AP.

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At least two dozen universities have received gifts from the Sackler family since 2013, ranging from $25,000 to more than $10 million, records show. Some skeptics see the donations as an attempt to salvage the family’s reputation. "Money from the Sacklers should be understood as blood money,” said Dr. Andrew Kolodny, a leading critic of the family and Purdue who has testified against the company in court. "Universities shouldn’t take it, and universities that have taken it should give it back." Representatives of Sackler family members declined to comment. As opioid deaths mounted, the AP found, some schools joined with businesses and museums cutting ties with the family, but none plans to return the money. One school is redirecting unspent donations. Most schools would not say whether they would accept donations in the future.

(Read more Sackler stories.)

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