The UK's top galleries are refusing donations from the Sacklers, the wealthy US family behind OxyContin

(Jessica Hill/AP)People who have lost loved ones to OxyContin and opioid overdoses leave pill bottles in protest outside the headquarters of Sackler-owned Purdue Pharma, in Stamford, Connecticut, in August 2018.
  • Some of Britain’s most prestigious art galleries are shunning donations from the Sackler family, the US billionaires behind OxyContin.
  • Members of the family are facing legal action over their role in the American opioid crisis.
  • Their company’s prescription painkiller was one of the drugs that fuelled overdoses in the epidemic.
  • The galleries’ refusal of the donations reflects growing scrutiny over the Sackler-owned Purdue Pharma company.

Some of the UK’s most prestigious art galleries are shunning donations from the Sackler family, whose company produces the prescription opioid OxyContin.

Members of the billionaire American family are being accused of causing the US drug crisis in a massive lawsuit.

London’s Tate Group announced on Thursday that it would not accept further gifts from the Sackler Trust to its galleries after several years of donations, The Guardian reported.

“We do not intend to remove references to this historic philanthropy,” the group said in a statement. “However, in the present circumstances we do not think it right to seek or accept further donations from the Sacklers.”

Tate Modern(Matt Dunham/AP)The Tate Modern is one of the Tate Group’s galleries that received donations from the wealthy Sackler family.

The decision came two days after the National Portrait Gallery said it had agreed with the Sacklers not to proceed with a donation worth £1 million ($US1.32 million) from the family.

The Sackler family amassed a fortune through Connecticut-based company Purdue Pharma, which it bought in 1952. It has been heavily involved in philanthropy, particularly with funding for the arts in both the US and the UK.

Tate and the National Portrait Gallery’s refusal of the donations reflects growing scrutiny of the painkiller producers.

More than 500 US cities and counties are suing Purdue Pharma for allegedly fuelling the opioid crisis in the US, Bloomberg reported.

The epidemic has become such a problem that President Donald Trump declared it to be a national health emergency in 2017.

That year more than 70,000 people died from overdoses, according to the Centres of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Around 68% of those deaths involved opioids, the CDC said.

Purdue pharma(Douglas Healy, AP)Purdue Pharma is accused of causing a nationwide opioid crisis with its prescription drug OxyContin.

Some of the lawsuits against the Sacklers specifically mention eight members of the family, and accuse them of profiting from legal opioids that fuelled the epidemic, The Guardian said.

Court documents said that OxyContin’s misleading marketing minimized its risks, leading doctors to over-prescribe the painkiller, The Guardian said.

The drug is more potent than heroine and morphine, the newspaper said, citing court documents.

“The [Sackler] defendants’ actions caused and continue to cause the public health epidemic… caused deaths, serious injuries, and a severe disruption to public peace, order and safety, it is ongoing and it is producing permanent and long-lasting damage,” the court documents said, according to The Guardian.

A spokesman for the Sackler Trust “vigorously denied” the allegations in Tuesday’s agreement to end donations to the National Portrait Gallery.

“But to avoid being a distraction for the NPG, we have decided not to proceed at this time with the donation,” a statement from the family said. “We continue to believe strongly in the gallery and the wonderful work it does.”

INSIDER has contacted the Sackler family for comment on the Tate Group’s refusal of their donations.

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