2017-07-22 14:46:10 UTC
Raymond Sackler, Psychopharmacology Pioneer and
Philanthropist, Dies at 97
By SAM ROBERTS, JULY 19, 2017, NY Times
Dr. Raymond Sackler, a pioneer in psychopharmacology, a medicinal
products entrepreneur and a leading philanthropist whose family made a
fortune from the opioid painkiller OxyContin, died on Monday in
Greenwich, Conn. He was 97.
His death was confirmed by his wife, Beverly.
Dr. Sackler was the last survivor among three brothers all
psychiatrist sons of Brooklyn grocers whose scientific and marketing
skills transformed a tiny Greenwich Village company founded in the
19th century into a global pharmaceutical giant known as Purdue
Pharma, now headquartered in Stamford, Conn.
Last year, the Sacklers were ranked 19th among Americas richest
families by Forbes magazine, with assets estimated at $18 billion.
They were major benefactors who helped finance the Sackler Wing of the
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York (home to the Temple of Dendur),
the Freer and Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in
Washington, British cultural institutions, schools in Israel and
scores of scientific, academic and cultural programs.
In 1971, one of thousands of minor planets discovered by the
Palomar-Leiden Survey, an American and Dutch joint effort, was named
for Beverly and Raymond Sackler to celebrate their commitment to
astronomical research. Dr. Sackler was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II
in 1995 for his contributions to science and the arts.
Raymond was the middle brother and was regarded as the most retiring.
Arthur, the eldest, died in 1987, Mortimer in 2010.
Raymond was a tremendous supporter of basic science and of young
people doing research in basic science, Dr. Phillip A. Sharp, a Nobel
Prize-winning professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology,
said in an email. His main interest was the intersection of
mathematical, engineering and physical sciences with biomedical
science an emerging field known as convergence science.
OxyContin, introduced in 1995, was Purdue Pharmas breakthrough
palliative for chronic pain. Under a marketing strategy that Arthur
Sackler had pioneered decades earlier, the company aggressively
pressed doctors to prescribe the drug, wooing them with free trips to
pain-management seminars and paid speaking engagements. Sales soared.
By 2001, prescriptions for OxyContin were generating more than $1.5
billion a year surpassing sales of Viagra and accounted for some
80 percent of the companys revenue.
OxyContin, made with a synthetic version of morphine, was said to be
nonaddictive because in the form of long-acting tablets, it released
its active ingredient slowly.
But the time-release effect could be defeated by crushing the tablets
and snorting the powder, or by smoking it, or by adding water and
injecting it all for an immediate, sometimes heroinlike, high.
Federal regulators accused Purdue Pharma of misleading consumers when
it asserted that OxyContin was less likely than traditional narcotics
to be abused.
In 2007, the company agreed to pay $600 million to resolve the federal
charges, although its executives insisted that they had adequately
informed doctors and consumers about the potential for drug abuse and
had responded quickly to reports of overdose deaths.
They also said they had contributed to independent research on pain to
guard against rampant overprescribing.
During the past six years, we have implemented changes to our
internal training, compliance and monitoring systems that seek to
assure that similar events do not occur again, the company said at
the time of the settlement.
Several company officials pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge of
misbranding and were fined more than $34 million. The Sacklers
personally were never formally accused of wrongdoing.
Raymond Raphael Sackler was born on Feb. 16, 1920, in Brooklyn to
Isaac Sackler and the former Sophie Ziesel, Jewish immigrants from
Eastern Europe who ran a grocery store.
After graduating from Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, he earned
a bachelor of science degree from New York University in 1938.
At a time when medical schools in New York imposed quotas on the
number of Jewish students they would admit, Raymond Sackler pursued
his medical degree at Anderson College of Medicine in Glasgow, where
he also joined the British Home Guard and served as a plane spotter
during World War II. He graduated from Middlesex University Medical
School in Waltham, Mass. (It closed later in the 1940s.)
In 1944, Dr. Sackler married the former Beverly Feldman, who survives
him. Survivors also include their two sons, Richard and Jonathan.
The brothers founded the Creedmoor Institute of Psychobiological
Studies at the state hospital in Queens Village, N.Y. (Raymond and
Mortimer, who were studying skin burns for the Atomic Energy
Commission there, were dismissed in 1953 when they refused to sign an
Army loyalty oath requiring them to report participants who engaged in
conversations deemed subversive.)
Early on, the three brothers helped pioneer research of the biology
of psychiatric illnesses, BMJ (formerly the British Medical Journal)
wrote in 2011, research that helped open the door decades later
toward drug treatments.
It was Arthur Sackler, a trailblazer in medical advertising, who
financed the purchase of a small Greenwich Village drug manufacturer,
the Purdue Frederick Company, in 1952, according to the book Pain
Killer: A Wonder Drugs Trail of Addiction and Death (2003), by
Barry Meier, a reporter for The New York Times. Raymond and Mortimer
The companys products included an ear wax remover, a laxative, a
metabolic cerebral tonic called Grays Glycerine (its formula was 11
percent alcohol) and the antiseptic Betadine, the familiar orange
disinfectant smeared on patients skin before surgery. (In 1969, the
astronaut Neil Armstrong decontaminated the Apollo landing module with
Betadine after his moon walk.)
The company began experimenting with generic oxycodone, which was
invented in Germany during World War I, to create a time-release
formula that would spread the analgesic narcotics effects over 12
hours and, among other things, allow pain sufferers to sleep through
Before developing OxyContin, the company, in 1984, created MS Contin,
an extended-release, morphine-based drug to relieve cancer pain.
The Sacklers were benefactors of, among other institutions, the
Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University,
the Mortimer and Raymond Sackler Institute of Advanced Studies at the
University of Tel Aviv, the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Gallery for
Assyrian Art at the Metropolitan Museum, Leiden University in the
Netherlands, Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, the Columbia
University College of Physicians and Surgeons, the British Museum, and
the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Medical Research Center at the
University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine.