I am writing to share my thoughts on the controversy involving the Sackler family and the opioid crisis. The anguish that opioids have inflicted on so many individuals and families is tragic and deserves our serious attention.
I know that many members of our community are concerned about the involvement of Tufts University with members of the Sackler family and Purdue Pharma, a company owned by members of the Sackler family that has been implicated in the opioid crisis. Over the years, the university has received grants and gifts from members of the Sackler family and affiliated companies to support our mission, including gifts for the creation and naming of the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences and the Arthur M. Sackler Center, both in the early 1980s. Our acceptance of that funding—and the influence it could have had on our teaching and research—is now being called into question. Some members of our community are calling for the university to remove the Sackler name from the building and the school, and for the university to take other actions as well. We will await the results of the review, discussed below, prior to making any final decisions.
Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey recently filed a lawsuit against individual members of the Sackler family, Purdue Pharma, and other affiliated organizations alleging that the practices used to promote products such as OxyContin and oxycodone were fraudulent and resulted in the addiction and death of many people in Massachusetts and across the country. In the complaint, the Attorney General also alleges that Purdue Pharma contributions to the Pain Research, Education and Policy Program (PREP) at Tufts University School of Medicine were part of an effort to legitimize the marketing of those drugs. These allegations are deeply troubling.
I strongly believe that it is important to both our university and those who have suffered as a result of the opioid crisis to investigate these allegations thoroughly. I have therefore asked Donald K. Stern, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Massachusetts, from the law firm of Yurko, Salvesen & Remz, to lead a review of the activities of the PREP program and other programs related to opioids that received funding from the Sackler family, the Sackler family foundations, and Purdue Pharma. The review will determine if we adhered to our policies and if our policies adopted best practices with respect to academic and research integrity and conflicts of interest in accepting those funds. Attorney Stern will present his findings with a team of academic leaders. Together they will develop recommendations for the future which will be shared with our community. If our existing policies and controls need to be changed or strengthened, that will happen.
I truly appreciate the comments I have received about these issues from members of the community who care deeply about Tufts. I can assure you that I take those comments very seriously. Since its founding in 1852, Tufts has sought to advance a mission of academic excellence and integrity. I am committed to those principles and will implement any changes that are necessary to ensure our adherence to them going forward.