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Sussex University received ‘opioid money’ from Purdue Pharma owners

The university received up to £1.4m towards neurological and psychiatric research in 2018.


The Sackler family, owners of pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, reportedly donated £5.2m to UK universities and charities in 2018, with Sussex receiving the second-highest donation of £1.4m in total.

Since donating the money, Purdue Pharma have filed for bankruptcy in relation to the OxyContin scandal; the company began selling the highly addictive prescription painkiller in 1996, and have subsequently been accused of fuelling the US opiod crisis.

Opioids are the biggest cause of overdose in the US, resulting in 47,600 deaths in 2017 (67.8% of all drug overdose deaths), as reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The University of Sussex has stated that the money donated "has supported our centre which informs critical clinical interventions to a wide range of neurological and psychiatric disorders, such as depression, schizophrenia and dementia".

The Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation (owners of Purdue) are well-known for their generous donations to US and UK institutions, such as art galleries, educational and research facilities.

Due to Purdue's affiliation with the opioid crisis however, the Sackler family temporarily suspended donations in March, not long after some organisations, such as the National Portrait Gallery, announced they would no longer accept money from the family.

In light of the recent negative publicity, The University of Sussex will also be refusing further donations: an official spokesperson said: "This year, and in light of the legal situation in the US, the University and Sackler Trust decided not to progress with further pledges."