Britain’s Oxford University cuts ties with Sackler family over opioid links

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The University of Oxford has cut ties with the Sackler family, whose wealth derives from opioid drugs, removing their name form a number of positions and buildings, including two galleries in the Ashmolean Museum.

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Britain’s University of Oxford cut ties with key benefactor the Sackler family, whose wealth derives from addictive opioid drugs and stand accused of helping fuel a U.S. epidemic.

The decision to strip the family’s name from two galleries in the Ashmolean Museum, a university library, and three staff positions, follows an investigation earlier this year by the university’s new vice-chancellor, Irene Tracey.

It comes after continued criticism of the British institution’s retention of the name, even as other key bodies such as the British Museum and the Victoria & Albert (V&A) axed their Sackler links in recent years.

Some members of the billionaire Sackler family are known for founding and owning Purdue Pharma, the pharmaceutical giant that produces Oxycontin — a prescription painkiller that has been widely blamed for helping fuel the U.S. opioid crisis.

The university said that the move, which was approved by its governing council Monday, had also received the “full support” of the Sackler family.

“Oxford University has undertaken a review of its relationship with the Sackler family and their trusts, including the way their benefactions to the University are recognized,” the university said in a statement.

“Following this review, the University has decided that the University buildings, spaces and staff positions using the Sackler name will no longer do so,” it said.

As part of the move, the Sackler library will be renamed as the Bodleian Art, Archaeology and Ancient World Library.

However, the Sackler name will be retained on the Clarendon Arch and on the Ashmolean Museum’s donor board for the purposes of “historical recording of donations to the university.”

The university also said that all donations received from the Sackler family and their trusts will be retained for their intended educational purposes, but that no new donations have been received from either the family or their trusts since January 2019.

In 2019, the Louvre in Paris removed the Sackler title from one of its wings, while in 2021 New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art cut the name from seven exhibition spaces, including the wing that houses the Temple of Dendur.

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