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The Sackler Crossing at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

Mortimer David Sackler (December 7, 1916 – March 24, 2010) was an American physician and entrepreneur. With his brother, Raymond, he used his fortune from Oxycontin, the trade name for oxycodone, an opioid pain medication used to treat terminal cancer patients, to become a prominent philanthropist.[1][2][3][4]


Life and careerEdit

The son of Isaac and Sophie (née Greenberg) Sackler, Polish Jewish immigrant Brooklyn grocer, Sackler attended Erasmus Hall High School in his native Brooklyn. Failing to get a Jewish-allotted place in any New York medical school, he sailed steerage to the UK in 1937 and, with the help of Glasgow's Jewish community, enrolled at Glasgow University's Anderson College of Medicine. After World War II began, he completed his degree at the Middlesex Hospital School of Medicine in London.

During the Korean war, he was an army psychiatrist in Denver, Colorado, before joining his brothers, Arthur and Mortimer, both newly graduated doctors, at the Creedmoor psychiatric hospital in New York City. The three became a moving force in the research and clinical outpatient department at Creedmore, which would become the Creedmore Institute for Psychobiologic Studies. During the 1950s the brothers undertook pioneering research into how alterations in bodily function can affect mental illness. This work contributed to a move away from treatments such as electric shock and lobotomy towards pharmaceutical solutions or psychoanalysis. The brothers acquired small pharmaceutical companies and worked on reviving them from 1952. Since the 1990s, Raymond and Mortimer, now deceased, owned Purdue Pharma, a large privately owned business with products including OxyContin[5].

He renounced his U.S. citizenship in 1974 and subsequently lived a flamboyant life in Europe, shuttling among residences in England, the Swiss Alps, and Cap d’Antibes.[6]

Using his fortune[7] from pharmaceuticals he became a generous donor to charitable causes worldwide.[8]

Sackler's donations included:

Jointly with his brothers he endowed the Sackler Faculty of Medicine at Tel Aviv University and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University. In 1995, Sackler was made an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE) by Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his services to education.[citation needed]


His interest in philanthropy continues after his death through the Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation[11] which he set up jointly with third wife, Dame Theresa Elizabeth Sackler (née Rowling; born 1949), from Staffordshire, who was formerly a teacher at the Sisters of Our Lady of Sion convent in London's Notting Hill Gate. The foundation's donations include the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at the University of Sussex.[12]

Horticultural legacyEdit

Theresa Sackler, a passionate gardener, bought the right to name a new rose cultivar at a charity auction in 2002. The rose, bred by David Austin, was named for her husband, who she said was brought to mind by the official description of the rose, which stated that the blooms "give the impression of delicacy and softness but are, in fact, very tough and little affected by bad weather".[13]


Mortimer Sackler died at age 93 in Gstaad, Bern, Switzerland, survived by his wife and their son and two daughters, as well as four children from his previous two marriages, and his younger brother, Raymond Sackler.[14]


On October 30, 2017, The New Yorker published a multi-page exposé on Mortimer Sackler, Purdue Pharma, and the Sackler family as a whole.[15] The article links Raymond and Arthur Sackler's business acumen with the rise of direct pharmaceutical marketing and eventually to the rise of addiction to OxyContin in the United States. The article implies that Sackler bears some moral responsibility for the Opioid epidemic in the United States.[16]


  1. ^ "The Secretive Family Making Billions From the Opioid Crisis". Esquire. 2017-10-16. Retrieved 2017-10-25. 
  2. ^ Keefe, Patrick Radden (2017-10-23). "The Family That Built an Empire of Pain". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2017-10-25. 
  3. ^ Weber, Bruce (March 31, 2010). "Mortimer D. Sackler, Arts Patron, Dies at 93". The New York Times. Retrieved December 30, 2017. 
  4. ^ Davison, Phil (April 24, 2010). "Drugs mogul with a vast philanthropic legacy". The Financial Times. Retrieved December 30, 2017. 
  5. ^ "OxyContin® (oxycodone HCl) Extended-Release Tablets | Official Site for Patients & Caregivers". Retrieved 2017-10-25. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "Sackler family". Forbes. Retrieved 2017-10-25. 
  8. ^ Obituary in The Daily Telegraph,; accessed September 17, 2015.
  9. ^ "King's College London - Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine". Retrieved 22 October 2017. 
  10. ^ "A New Public Gallery: The Royal Parks and the Serpentine Gallery Agree to New Venue". November 2, 2010. Retrieved September 7, 2015. 
  11. ^ Charity Commission. The Dr Mortimer and Theresa Sackler Foundation, registered charity no. 1128926. 
  12. ^ "About Dame Theresa Sackler". Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science. University of Sussex. Retrieved March 16, 2016. 
  13. ^ Obituary for Mortimer Sackler,; accessed September 17, 2015.
  14. ^ Obituary,, April 19, 2010; accessed September 17, 2015.
  15. ^ Keefe, Patrick Radden (2017-10-23). "The Family That Built an Empire of Pain". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2017-11-18. 
  16. ^ Keefe, Patrick Radden (2017-10-23). "The Family That Built an Empire of Pain". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved 2017-11-18. 


External linksEdit