Sacklers to ‘pause’ donations over US painkiller furore

A charitable trust linked to an epidemic of painkiller addiction in the United States is to halt its donations amid growing international pressure.

V&A Dundee has received money from the Sackler Trust
V&A Dundee has received money from the Sackler Trust

The Sackler Trust has made awards of more than £60 million in the UK since 2010, including to the universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow and the V&A Dundee.

Last week a £1m donation from the trust to the National Portrait Gallery in London was withdrawn, while the Tate said it would no longer seek or accept donations.

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The trust is the philanthropic arm of the Sackler family which is embroiled in legal action in the United States amid allegations it helped create an opioid crisis which has killed more than 200,000 people.

Dame Theresa Sackler, the trust’s chair, is among those named in a lawsuit against family firm Purdue Pharma in which Massachusetts’s attorney general accuses the company of creating the opioid epidemic and profiting from it “through a web of illegal deceit” with its prescription painkiller OxyContin. The company “vigorously denies” allegations it acted improperly.

Dame Theresa said: “I am deeply saddened by the addiction crisis in America and support the actions Purdue Pharma is taking to help tackle the situation, whilst still rejecting the false allegations made against the company and several members of the Sackler family.

“The current press attention that these legal cases in the United States is generating has created immense pressure on the scientific, medical, educational and arts institutions here in the UK, large and small, that I am so proud to support.

“This attention is distracting them from the important work that they do.”

Dame Theresa said the trustees had decided to “temporarily pause” all new donations, while continuing to honour existing commitments.

She added: “I remain fully committed to all the causes the Sackler Trust supports, but at this moment it is the better course for the trust to halt all new giving until we can be confident that it will not be a distraction for institutions that are applying for grants.”

The Scotsman’s sister title, Scotland on Sunday, revealed earlier this month that the V&A in Dundee received a £500,000 donation from the Sacklers, leading to calls for the money to be returned.

The universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow have received grants totalling £2.5m, according to documents filed with the Charity Commission.