Anti-Big Pharma Protesters Shower Guggenheim with Phony Prescriptions

Outrage aimed at museum donations from the Sackler family linked to national painkiller epidemic.

The Guggenheim Museum
The Guggenheim Museum is now a UNESCO site. (Andrew Moore, Creative Commons)

Protesters sent a blizzard of white paper slips off the iconic balcony of New York’s Guggenheim on Saturday night, in a political act expressing outrage over the museum’s acceptance of donations from the Sackler family. The papers, made up to look like mock painkiller prescriptions, were aimed at highlighting the link between the opioid OxyContin and the Sacklers, whose company, PurduePharma, manufactures the controversial drug.

Currently, the museum’s education facilities as well as a theater and an exhibition gallery are housed in the Sackler Center for Arts Education, thanks the generous gifts from the family. But those donations have recently sparked opposition after reports about the pharmaceutical industry’s role in the opioid crisis.

So far, more than 200,000 Americans have died from prescription opioid-related overdoses. As state and federal authorities have scrambled to deal with this health crisis, investigators have put increased scrutiny on OxyContin manufacturer PurduePharma and its founding family, the Sacklers.

Last month, the New York Times reported on a civil suit brought by the Massachusetts Attorney General that specifically targeted the Sackler family’s role in instigating excessive opioid prescriptions. That lawsuit alleges the Sacklers undertook a years-long campaign to mislead both doctors and patients about the dangers of the drug.

The group responsible for Saturday’s protest, Prescription Addiction Intervention Now, was founded by photographer Nan Goldin, who was addicted to OxyContin for three years. Last year, PAIN led a similar action inside New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, which is also a large beneficiary of Sackler philanthropic efforts.

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