Regarding Jillian Sackler’s April 12 op-ed, “Stop blaming Arthur Sackler”:
The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery in the District is one of my favorites, and the Sackler wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York is a jewel. My conflict about OxyContin dissolved when Ms. Sackler said her husband, Arthur Sackler, was dead before this drug was approved and the issue of guilt by association should be reconsidered. Ms. Sackler provided an uncontroversial rationale of Arthur Sackler’s innocence.
My feelings were, however, short-lived. A recent New England Journal of Medicine article highlighted the pioneering role Arthur Sackler played in pharmaceutical marketing. It said Sackler “developed, naturalized and monetized the interphase between the pharmaceutical industry and prescribing physician,” underscoring that, although Sackler was not alone in these developments, his role was seminal. The Medical Advertising Hall of Fame declared in 1998 that “no single individual did more to shape the character of medical advertising than the multi-talented Dr. Arthur Sackler.” The article noted Sackler’s integrated empire “of drug companies, advertising staff, and medical journals.”
Although Sackler may not be responsible for the opioid crisis as it pertains to OxyContin, it seems he paved the way for this to happen. Ms. Sackler neglected to address his historical role in the marketing of drugs. It seems that, in this case, there is no guilt by association but simply guilt.
I don’t know if I will visit venues supported by his fortune, but I will have to manage my unease without medication; no product solves ethical dilemmas.
Saul Malozowski, Rockville