Tel Aviv University to remove Sackler name from medical school, weeks after family set terms of opioid settlement


((JEWISH REVIEW)) — For years, as the Sackler name fell from art museums, colleges and even a wing of Shakespeare’s Globe Theater amid revelations about the family’s contributions to the opioid crisis, it remained very much attached to the medical school at Tel Aviv University.

Now, three weeks after the Jewish family that produced the opioid OxyContin agreed to spend up to $6 billion on addiction treatment and prevention in exchange for immunity from civil claims, the university has announced that the family “has kindly agreed to remove their name” from the medical school.

“For the last 50 years, the Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University has proudly borne the Sackler family name,” the school said in a statement Wednesday that it said it had released jointly with the family. “In a continuing desire and commitment to assist the University and the Faculty to raise funds for medical research, the Sackler family has kindly agreed to remove their name from the Faculty of Medicine. With this move, they will enable the University to offer naming opportunities for the Faculty of Medicine and School of Medicine to new donors.”

The statement concluded, “Tel Aviv University gratefully acknowledges the multi-decade contributions of the Sackler family to the development of the Faculty of Medicine into an Israeli and world leader in the health field.”

The announcement removes one of the biggest remaining public honorifics for the family, which became the subject of a pressure campaign after allegations emerged that Purdue Pharma, the company that the Sackler patriarchs turned into a pharmaceutical giant, had engaged in a range of deceptive advertising practices that obscured the addictive potential of its products. Those practices, the family’s many critics say, have made opioids into the leading cause of drug overdose deaths.

Tel Aviv University had resisted pressure to drop the Sackler name from its medical school — though the American-facing wing quietly removed it from marketing materials last year. The school has still had a Sackler Faculty of Medicine whose “About” page has cited the “generous contributions of renowned U.S. doctors and philanthropists Raymond, and the late Mortimer and Arthur Sackler.”

Mortimer and Raymond Sackler were the sons of Jewish immigrants to the United States who attended medical school in Scotland because, they said, U.S. schools did not admit them due to quotas limiting Jewish enrollment. (Arthur Sackler, who trained as a doctor in New York, sold his share in the company before it began manufacturing OxyContin.)

The name change follows another significant change at Tel Aviv University’s medical school: Last year, it began phasing out its program for U.S. students, following an Israeli government decision to reallocate medical training spaces to Israelis.