Questions and Answers on the Sackler Name Removal and the Stern Report

December 5, 2019

Why did the university decide to remove the Sackler name?

The Board of Trustees and President Monaco considered a number of factors in making the decision to remove the Sackler name. These included input from members of the Tufts community, many of whom were personally impacted by the opioid epidemic. While the financial support provided by the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma may have been intended to provide charitable support for the academic and research mission of the university, the current-day association of the opioid epidemic with the Sackler name conflicts with the charitable intent. Therefore, the Board of Trustees and President Monaco decided that the named association with Tufts—particularly given the direct association with our medical and biomedical sciences schools—was untenable and in opposition with the values and mission of the medical school and the university.

Specifically, 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 is not on buildings on our other campuses.

— Establish a $3 million endowment to support education, research, and civic engagement programs aimed at the prevention and treatment of addiction and substance abuse.

What will happen to the Sackler name at Tufts?

The Sackler name will be removed from the Tufts University School of Medicine Education building; the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences; 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, as well as other instances, such as on our websites.

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.

In making the decision to remove the Sackler name, which will begin immediately, we are not seeking to erase this chapter of Tufts’ history. It is part of this institution forever, and we are committed to appropriately recognizing and contextualizing the involvement of family members over the years. 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, we plan 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.

What is the timeline for removing the Sackler name from buildings, labs, funds, etc.?

Some work will begin immediately including the removal of signage outside the former Sackler building (now renamed the Tufts Center for Medical Education) and from the university’s website. The complete removal from all programs and funds is a substantial undertaking and will take some time. We are committed to moving as expeditiously as we can.

Why aren’t you returning any funds received from the Sackler family or Purdue Pharma?

The majority of the funds have already been spent on the charitable purpose of the gifts—on items such as the Tufts Center for Medical Education (formerly known as the Sackler building.) The only remaining funds from the Sackler family are endowments that support research on significant medical issues such as breast cancer and epilepsy. This was the charitable intent of the gifts, and we believe this vitally important work should continue. In addition, as we announced on December 5, we are creating a new $3 million endowment to support education, research, and civic engagement programs aimed at the prevention and treatment of addiction and substance abuse. This is being funded with university funds not associated with the Sackler family or Purdue Pharma.

What did the Stern report find?

In late February 2019, the university commissioned former U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Donald K. Stern, as an independent fact-finder to assess its past relationships with pharmaceutical firm Purdue Pharma, maker of OxyContin, and, the Sackler family, some members of which continue to be involved with Purdue. The investigation found no wrongdoing by the university or its personnel, no violations of university policy, and no evidence of any arrangements by which Purdue or the Sacklers agreed to fund academic programs or research in exchange for certain outcomes or curriculum. In particular, the report did not find that there was any material influence by Purdue or the Sacklers on the university’s Masters in Pain Research and Education Policy program (“PREP”) which was funded from 1998-2007 by donations from Purdue Pharma.

While there was no evidence found to support that Purdue and the Sacklers influenced the university’s curriculum or research, Attorney Stern did find instances of conduct that could have directly or indirectly led to influence and other conduct that suggest the appearance of influence. However, he determined the conduct did not materially affect the academic program or research or compromise academic integrity.

To reinforce the integrity of the university’s research and academic mission, Attorney Stern made a number of recommendations including, among others, strengthening screening procedures for donors and gifts; developing more stringent conflict of interest policies, strengthen compliance practices and leadership, and creating and publicizing guiding principles for gift acceptance. The university’s administration and trustees have pledged to implement the policy recommendations as soon as possible.

Why did the report take eight months to complete?

It was extremely important for our university to undertake a thorough review of our connection to Purdue Pharma and the Sackler family, a relationship that dates back to the early 1980s. This review required Attorney Stern to conduct numerous interviews and review records and activities related to programs that received funding from the Sackler family, the Sackler family foundations, and Purdue Pharma. While we wanted a timely review, we did not want Attorney Stern to jeopardize thoroughness and completeness.

What was the process undertaken to complete the report?

Attorney Stern reviewed decades’ worth of available documentation; interviewed available witnesses; and reviewed applicable best practices in the area of donor relations, conflicts of interest principles in the university setting, and other relevant information necessary to develop recommendations in this case. As part of developing recommendations, Attorney Stern also worked with a committee of experts who acted as consultants on this project including: Jeremy Sugarman, deputy director for medicine and professor of bioethics and medicine at the Johns Hopkins University Berman Institute for Bioethics; Yale University Professor David Fiellin, director of the Yale Program in Addiction Medicine; and Professor Melissa Mazan of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine at Tufts University and chair of the Tufts Faculty Senate.

What did Attorney Stern recommend to improve the university’s policies and procedures around donations and naming?

To reinforce the integrity of the university’s research and academic mission, Attorney Stern made a number of recommendations including, among others, strengthening screening procedures for donors and gifts; developing more stringent conflict of interest policies, strengthen compliance practices and leadership, and creating and publicizing guiding principles for gift acceptance. The university’s administration and trustees have pledged to implement the policy recommendations.

What did the report find regarding the Sackler family’s support of the Pain Research, Education and Policy Program (PREP) at TUSM?

As part of his review, Attorney Stern examined the activities of the PREP program and found:

— The PREP program was created independent of Purdue and supported by Purdue after the university had approved its status. Purdue was simply a founding sponsor that provided financial support for the program from 1998 to 2007.

— The terms of the initial agreement to fund the PREP program, coupled with the appointment of a senior Purdue Pharma executive as a lecturer who delivered one to two lectures per year in semester-long courses run by others in the PREP program, provided for the potential for direct influence into the program’s curriculum and associated projects and lectures; however, Attorney Stern found no evidence that exertion of such influence ultimately occurred.

— While there was no direct influence, Tufts officials at times may have provided favored treatment to the Sacklers and Purdue or acted to avoid controversy related to them.

— While there were situations that suggested an appearance of influence by Purdue on the PREP program, he determined it did not appear to materially affect the academic program, or compromise academic integrity

— The PREP program, which was not part of the MD program’s curriculum, was demonstrably inter-disciplinary and reviewed a variety of pain management approaches, including analgesics and opioids, acupuncture, mindfulness and others, was independent and was not found to be driven by Purdue or by an interest in proselytizing opioid use.

— Note: the PREP program ended last year due to low enrollment. The last class to graduate will be in 2020.

Will the university take steps to help address the addiction and substance abuse crisis?

Yes. The university will establish a $3 million endowment to support education, research, and civic engagement programs aimed at the prevention and treatment of addiction and substance abuse. We view this as the beginning of an effort to raise additional funds to help address this public health crisis.

How is Tufts helping address addiction on its own campuses?

We strive to support each Tufts student who is struggling with addiction, and are regarded as a leader in making recovery services available through our collaboration with The Haven. We also have taken the lead in strengthening mental health services as a result of the work and recommendations of the Mental Health Task Force and by virtue of our selection as the first recipient of a JED Campus scholarship, a nationwide initiative to help colleges and universities assess and improve existing mental health, substance abuse, and suicide prevention efforts. 

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