Tufts University to Remove Sackler Name from Medical School Facilities and Programs

University will create endowment to support prevention and treatment of substance abuse and addiction
Exterior of the Tufts University School of Medicine. Tufts University will remove the Sackler name from all programs and facilities on its Boston health sciences campus.
"We were compelled to take action by the extraordinary circumstances of this public health crisis and its impact on our mission," said Chair of the Board of Trustees Peter Dolan. Photo: Glenn Kulbako for Tufts University
December 5, 2019

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Tufts University will remove the Sackler name from all programs and facilities on its Boston health sciences campus, Tufts University President Anthony P. Monaco and Chair of the Board of Trustees Peter Dolan announced to the Tufts community today. The university also will take steps to increase its support of programs aimed at the prevention and treatment of substance abuse and addiction.

“The Tufts University School of Medicine’s values include a commitment to relieve suffering, improve quality of life, and promote integrity and social responsibility. Given the human toll of the opioid epidemic in which members of the Sackler family and their company Purdue Pharma are associated, it is clear that continuing to display the Sackler name is inconsistent with these values,” said Monaco. “This decision also acknowledges the countless individuals and families who have suffered so much loss, harm, and sorrow as a result of the opioid crisis. And it acknowledges members of our own community who have struggled on a daily basis with the university’s very public association with the Sackler name.”

The university will remove the Sackler name from the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences; the Arthur M. Sackler Center for Medical Education; the Sackler Laboratory for the Convergence of Biomedical, Physical and Engineering Sciences; the Sackler Families Fund for Collaborative Cancer Biology Research; and the Richard S. Sackler, M.D. Endowed Research Fund. The name does not appear on the university’s other campuses. With today’s announcement the entities will be named the Tufts Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences; the Tufts Center for Medical Education; the Tufts Laboratory for the Convergence of Biomedical, Physical, and Engineering Sciences; the Tufts Fund for Collaborative Cancer Biology Research; and the Tufts Endowed Basic Science Research Fund.

The university will also establish a $3 million endowment to support education, research, and civic engagement programs aimed at the prevention and treatment of substance abuse and addiction.

“Our decision to remove the Sackler name from our medical education building and from within our medical school programs was made after long, difficult, and thoughtful deliberation,” added Dolan. “This is a step the university has never taken before. We were compelled to take action by the extraordinary circumstances of this public health crisis and its impact on our mission. We are grateful for the students, faculty, and alumni we met with who made it clear that the Sackler name now runs counter to the mission of the medical school, has had a negative impact on their studies and professional careers, and contradicts the purpose for which the gifts were initially given: to advance public health and research.”

“In making the decision to remove the Sackler name, which will begin immediately, we are not seeking to erase this chapter of Tufts’ history,” said Monaco. “It is part of this institution’s history forever and we intend to create an educational exhibit inside the medical school to describe the Sackler family’s involvement with Tufts and to educate the community about lessons we all must learn from the opioid epidemic.”

The history of the family’s relationship with Tufts begins in the 1980s and includes contributions from Arthur M. Sackler to support Tufts’ mission of scientific research and medical education to improve people’s lives. Arthur Sackler himself died in 1987, nearly a decade before Purdue Pharma introduced OxyContin, a drug intended to ease severe pain that is now at the center of the nation’s opioid crisis. “With input from our community, the new exhibit will give Tufts the opportunity to describe the Sackler family’s history with Tufts and to educate the broader community about lessons we all must learn from the opioid crisis,” said Monaco.

Today, the university also released the report prepared by former U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Donald K. Stern and Attorney Sandy Remz from the firm of Yurko, Salvesen & Remz, independent fact-finders who were commissioned by the university in late February 2019 to assess its past relationships with pharmaceutical firm Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, and its owners, members of the Sackler family. Stern’s report found no wrongdoing by the university or its personnel, no violations of university policy, and no evidence of an arrangement by which Purdue or the Sacklers agreed to fund programs or research in exchange for certain outcomes or curricula.

Stern’s review focused on Tufts’ Pain Research, Education and Policy Program (PREP) and other programs that received funding from the Sackler family, the Sackler family foundations, and Purdue Pharma. Stern found there was some evidence, on the part of Purdue Pharma, of both direct and indirect influence; however, he emphasized that this influence did not appear to materially affect the academic program or research or to compromise academic integrity. There was also some evidence suggesting the appearance of influence, again without evidence of any material impact on instruction or research, in that Tufts officials at times may have provided favored treatment to the Sacklers and Purdue or acted to avoid controversy related to them.

Stern’s review also included an assessment of Tufts’ policies and procedures to determine if the university adhered to its policies and if those policies reflected best practices with respect to academic research and integrity. He recommended that the university adopt stronger screening procedures for donors, develop more stringent conflict-of-interest policies, develop and make publicly available guiding principles for gift acceptance, strengthen compliance practices and leadership, and take other steps to ensure that its academic and research programs remain free of undue influence. The university’s administration and trustees have pledged to implement the policy recommendations as soon as possible.

More information on the decisions and other related questions are available here.