Sackler family name removed from Tel Aviv University medical school

Move meant to disassociate the university from the family accused of profiting while fueling destructive opioid crisis

Renee Ghert-Zand is the health reporter and a feature writer for The Times of Israel.

The former Sackler Health and Sciences complex at Tel Aviv University. (screen capture: Google Street View)
The former Sackler Health and Sciences complex at Tel Aviv University. (screen capture: Google Street View)

Tel Aviv University and the Sackler family issued a joint statement on Wednesday announcing that they have agreed to remove the Sackler name from the university’s faculty of medicine.

The billionaire Sacklers, owners of Purdue Pharma, have been accused of profiting from the sale of opioids at the expense of Americans’ health. It was alleged that Purdue fueled the opioid crisis by aggressively marketing OxyContin.

Opioids are highly addictive, and since 2000 more than a million Americans have died of drug overdoses, mainly due to opioids.

Purdue has admitted criminal wrongdoing, but the Sackler family has not.

On May 30, a New York court of appeals issued a ruling granting the Sackler family immunity from current and future lawsuits over their role in their Purdue Pharma’s opioid business. In return, the Sackler family agreed to pay up to $6 billion to fight the ongoing opioid epidemic.

As part of a deal reached in March 2022 with eight states and the District of Columbia, the Sackler family agreed to allow organization and institutions in the United States to remove the family name from  buildings, programs and scholarships, providing that the family is notified and public statements announcing the name removal do not “disparage” the family.

“For the last 50 years, the Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University has proudly borne the Sackler family name,” said the university statement.

“In a continuing desire and commitment to assist the University and the Faculty to raise funds for medical research, the Sackler family has kindly agreed to remove their name from the faculty of medicine. With this move, they will enable the university to offer naming opportunities for the faculty of medicine and school of medicine to new donors.”

The dropping of the Sackler name from the medical school at TAU follows similar moves by other universities and institutions.

Tufts University removed the Sackler name from several buildings and programs on its medical campus as early as December 2019 following student complaints. Oxford University also removed the Sackler name from a library, galleries, and programs.

Museums such as the Louvre in Paris and the Tate museums and the National Portrait Gallery, and the British Museum in London also disassociated themselves from the Sackler family. The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York removed the Sackler name from several of its exhibition spaces.

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