Arthur Sackler Was Dead Long Before OxyContin Hit The Market

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Netflix Painkiller explores the ongoing US opioid epidemic and the thousands of lives it has caused.

It is told through the lens of Purdue Pharma, a pharmaceutical company that pushes the highly addictive painkiller OxyContin to market despite knowing the risks it poses to consumers. Specifically, the series focused on the Sackler family, who owned and operated Purdue Pharma at the time. The company is one that is widely blamed for today’s ongoing opioid crisis.

Since 1999, painkillers have wreaked havoc on entire communities, with deaths from opioid overdoses increasing by 1,608 percent for women and 1,076 percent for men in 2021, according to the report. National Security Council.

While viewers got to know then-President Richard Sackler over the course of the six-episode series, they were also introduced to a lesser-known figure of the Sackler family, Richard’s uncle, Arthur Sackler. And thanks to his broadcast time, many people are curious to know who he is, and where he is now.

Here’s what you need to know about the oldest Sackler brother:

Is Painkiller based on true story?

Painkiller is a fictional retelling of events that are very real, according to Netflix. The series is based on two primary sources — the 2003 book Pain Killer: The Empire of Deception and the Origins of the American Opioid Epidemic, by Barry Meier, which was updated in 2018, and 2017 New Yorkers the profile on the Sackler family is called, “The Family That Built an Empire of Pain.” The article was later expanded into a 2021 book, Sick Kingdom.

The people struggling with opioid substance use disorders in the series are fictional versions of thousands of unnamed victims, but the Sackler family characters are based on real people.

If you tune in, you’ll probably see the three original Sackler brothers appear on screen (Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond), and one second-generation Sackler, Richard, who was the head of the company when it launched OxyContin.

Arthur appears in the series.

Arthur was the eldest Sackler brother, and one of the original family members involved in Purdue Pharma’s early days, according to Guard. Although he is not the main character in the series, Arthur does appear on screen. But he only appears as a figment of the imagination of his nephew Richard. In that scene, Arthur comes up to Richard and gives him advice and criticism.

Arthur originally trained as a doctor before launching pharmaceutical marketing,” it appears[ing from the Depression] as a respected psychiatrist and entrepreneur,” per Insiders And NPR.

NPR went on to explain that “part of his genius was seeing the wealth to be made by blurring the ethical lines between drugs, drugs, and marketing.”

Some of these tactics include wine doctors and banquets, with things like lectures, lavish dinners and trips, the outlet reports. Arthur is credited with the marketing and sales techniques that made Valium the top-selling sedative.

And while he wasn’t involved in selling OxyContin (more on that in a moment), his marketing tactics served as a “template” for the company.

Arthur’s children do not profit from selling OxyContin.

Arthur’s third wife, Jillian Sackler, said that she and Arthur’s children did not profit from the sale of OxyContin, per Guard.

“I don’t think he would approve of the broad sale of OxyContin,” he said, adding that Purdue Pharma’s advertising was “misleading.”

Jillian also said family members “have a moral obligation to help make this happen and make amends” with the opioid crisis.

However, as mentioned, Arthur’s controversial marketing technique is used by the company to sell their new painkiller. Dear sir says the company employs tactics that include flashy graphics, free samples, and attractive ads in medical journals.

Where is Arthur Sackler now?

Arthur wasn’t around when the company decided to start manufacturing and selling OxyContin. He died in 1987 of a heart attack—about a decade before the drug went on sale.

After his death, his estate sold his company stock options to his brothers, Mortimer and Raymond, for $22.4 million, Guard say. Mortimer and Raymond’s descendants are worth a collective $13 billion now, according to Forbes.

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For more details on the Sackler family and their involvement in Purdue Pharma, you can check them out Painkillerstreaming now on Netflix.

Korin Miller is a freelance writer specializing in general wellness, sexual health and relationships, and lifestyle trends, with work appearing in Men’s Health, Women’s Health, Self, Glamor and more. He has a master’s degree from American University, lives by the beach, and hopes to own a teacup pig and a taco truck one day.

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