If you happen to subscribe to Esquire Magazine, then you probably came across a curious article in their most recent issue. Titled The Secretive Family Making Billions From The Opioid Crisis, it delves deep into the business practices of the Sackler clan; a group of relatives who appear to have cornered the painkiller market (and are reaping in huge amounts of cash).
The article doesn’t exactly lay blame on the Sacklers for the epidemic, but it does point out how they secretly remove themselves from the crisis conversation and have done little to fund recovery efforts. As mentioned in the headline, the Sacklers are worth tens of billions of dollars ($14 billion to be exact). The primary source of that income comes from Purdue Pharma, which is the sole manufacturer of Oxycontin.
Esquire makes a point to shame the Sacklers for their so-called “secrecy;” writing, “The family’s leaders have pulled off three of the great marketing triumphs of the modern era: The first is selling oxycontin; the second is promoting the Sackler name; and the third is ensuring that, as far as the public is aware, the first and the second have nothing to do with one another.”
Indeed, the Sackler clan has been quite generous with their charitable donations…just not when it comes to America’s addiction issues. They currently have a wing at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, a named section of the Louvre and galleries at the Smithsonian (just to name a few). But what the Sacklers have not lent their name to, is any type of recovery clinic, rehabilitation program or education effort when it comes to opioid abuse.
The lengthy Esquire piece delves deep into the Sackler history as well (dating back to the 1950’s) and the evolution of the Purdue Pharma empire. Interestingly enough, the family patriarchs built their fortunes with pharmaceutical advertising and marketing (vs. actual development).
Using that advertising background, Purdue (the article claims) misrepresented OxyContin during its initial release into the marketplace, downplaying its addictive tendencies.
“Purdue did not invent the chronic-pain movement, but it used that movement to engineer a crucial shift,” the article states. “By the end of the 1990’s, clinical proponents of opioid treatment, supported by millions in funding from Purdue, had organized themselves into advocacy groups with names like the American Pain Society and the American Academy of Pain Medicine. As an internal strategy document put it, Purdue’s ambition was to ‘attach an emotional aspect to noncancer pain’ so that doctors would feel pressure to ‘treat it more seriously and aggressively.’ The company rebranded pain relief as a sacred right: a universal narcotic entitlement available not only to the terminally ill but to every American.”
We found this to be a truly fascinating read and one that helps to get to the root of America’s opioid crisis. The next time you have a free moment, we highly recommend giving this Esquire piece a read.