Dr. Raymond Sackler, who transformed a minor over-the-counter pharmaceutical company into Purdue Pharma LP, died July 17 at the age of 97. According to a release from Purdue Pharma, Sackler’s death followed a “brief illness.”
Born in Brooklyn, Sackler received a bachelor of science degree in 1938 from New York University. Due to quotas that restricted the admission of Jewish students to American medical schools, Sackler initially pursued his medical degree at Anderson College of Medicine in Glasgow, Scotland. When World War II began, he stayed in Scotland and volunteered in the British Home Guard as a plane spotter. He later returned to the U.S. and completed his medical studies at Middlesex University School of Medicine in Waltham, Mass., which did not have a restrictive quota system in place, and received his medical degree in 1944. He was certified in psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.
Sackler and his brother, Mortimer Sackler, bought Purdue Pharma in 1952, when it was a small company based in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village that offered a product line that included an ear wax remover and a laxative. The company switched its focus to experiments involving generic oxycodone – which later resulted in the OxyContin opioid painkiller – and moved its offices to Stamford in 2000. The brothers were joined by another sibling, Arthur Sackler, in co-founding New York’s Creedmoor Institute for Psychobiological Studies in 1957. Arthur died in 1987 and Mortimer died in 2010.
The Sackler family maintains full ownership of Purdue Pharma, which generates roughly $3 billion in U.S. sales. Last year, Forbes listed the Sacklers as number 19 in its list of the nation’s richest families.
Sackler was also a philanthropist who served as a benefactor for educational and cultural institutions in the U.S., Europe and Israel. His philanthropic generosity was honored with The Honorary Knight Commander, Order of the British Empire, France’s Officier de la Légion d’honneur and the Netherland’s Officer in the Order of Orange Nassau.