Meet the Sacklers, one of the richest families in America, who built their $14 billion fortune off of controversial prescription drug OxyContin
- The Sacklers are one of the richest families in US.
- They're well-known for their philanthropic endeavors, but they also own Purdue Pharma, a pharmaceutical company that launched the drug OxyContin.
- Their estimated $14 billion fortune comes primarily from sales of the controversial prescription painkiller, according to Forbes.
- Some say Purdue Pharma's misleading marketing of OxyContin's risks is partly to blame for the US opioid crisis.
The Sacklers are one of the wealthiest families in the US, but you've likely never heard of them.They might not have the name recognition of some of America's wealthiest families, such as the Waltons or the Rockefellers, but those who haven't heard the Sackler name have almost certainly heard of the source of their wealth: OxyContin, the controversial prescription painkiller.
The Sackler family founded Purdue Pharma, which launched the drug in 1996. The original founding brothers, Raymond Sackler and Mortimer Sackler, died in 2010 and 2017 respectively. Their family still completely owns the company and shares an estimated $14 billion fortune, according to Forbes. But as The New York Times noted, the exact number is not known, as Purdue Pharma is a private company.
The Sacklers are not a tight-knit family. The Guardian described them in 2018 as "a sprawling and now feuding transatlantic dynasty." While some Sacklers serve as board members of Purdue Pharma, others, notably those descended from eldest brother Arthur Sackler, who died before OxyContin was invented, have distanced themselves from the company and condemned the OxyContin-based wealth, according to The Guardian.
But a 2018 investigation by The Atlantic found a court document that showed a nearly $20 million payment to Arthur Sackler's estate in 1997 from the Purdue family of companies, suggesting his descendants did benefit in some way from OxyContin.
In a 2017 New Yorker article about the Sacklers titled "The Family That Built an Empire of Pain," Patrick Radden Keefe noted the Sacklers are actually more well-known for their philanthropy.
At Yale University, there's a Raymond and Beverly Sackler Institute for Biological, Physical and Engineering Sciences and a Richard Sackler and Jonathan Sackler Professorship of Internal Medicine. A $3.5 million endowment to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City earned them the Sackler Wing. There's a Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian in Washington, DC.Here's a look at the secretive and controversial family.