National Portrait Gallery Won’t Proceed With Donation From Purdue Pharma’s Sackler Family

March 20, 2019, 12:31 PM UTC

A British art gallery has decided it won’t take 1 million pound ($1.3 million) pledge from a charitable organization run by Purdue Pharma’s Sackler family.

In a statement on Wednesday, the National Portrait Gallery and Sackler family agreed to not move forward with the donation to the National Portrait Gallery. Without listing allegations, which center on Purdue Pharma’s OxyContin and the drug’s possible influence on the U.S. opioid crisis, a spokesperson for the Sacklers, which own Purdue Pharma through family trusts, said that the family has “vigorously denied” any wrongdoing, but it doesn’t want the allegations to be “a distraction” for the National Portrait Gallery’s work.

Purdue Pharma and other prominent drug makers have found themselves in the crosshairs in lawsuits across the U.S. Those lawsuits, which have largely come from state governments and local municipalities, allege that the companies that sell painkillers haven’t done enough to educate users on health risks. They also allege that the drug makers have put their own sales interests ahead of public health. Ultimately, the lawsuits suggest the companies have played a role in the U.S. opioid crisis.

While the drug makers have denied those allegations, the lawsuits have hurt their efforts in other areas, like philanthropy. Some activists have boycotted and held protests at places where charitable organizations accept donations from companies or families that sell painkillers. Like the National Portrait Gallery, other organizations have stayed far away from the companies to sidestep any involvement in the controversy.

“The Sackler Trust has supported institutions playing crucial roles in health, education, science and the arts for almost half a century and we were pleased to have the opportunity to offer a new gift to support the National Portrait Gallery,” a spokesperson for the Sackler Trust said in a statement. “The giving philosophy of the family has always been to actively support institutions while never getting in the way of their mission. It has become evident that recent reporting of allegations made against Sackler family members may cause this new donation to deflect the National Portrait Gallery from its important work. The allegations against family members are vigorously denied, but to avoid being a distraction for the NPG, we have decided not to proceed at this time with the donation. We continue to believe strongly in the gallery and the wonderful work it does.”

“As Chair of the National Portrait Gallery, I acknowledge the generosity of the Sackler Family and their support of the Arts over the years,” David Ross, the chair of the National Portrait Gallery said in a statement. “We understand and support their decision not to proceed at this time with the donation to the Gallery.”

Update at 8:01 a.m. ET on March 22 to include statements from the Sackler family and National Portrait Gallery.

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