Who is Richard Sackler?

THE Sackler family is one of the richest in America – worth a whopping $13billion.

They are best known for being at the center of the US opioid crisis, and former Purdue Pharma boss Richard Sackler had a leading role.

Who is Richard Sackler?

Richard Sackler is an American billionaire businessman.

He was the chairman and president of Purdue Pharma – best known for developing Oxycontin, a medication used to help relieve severe pain.

The drug's connection to the US opioid epidemic has seen his company the subject of multiple lawsuits.

Richard joined Purdue Pharma after completing his bachelor's degree at Columbia College, followed by an MD degree from the New York University School of Medicine.

He became head of research and development, and head of marketing, and worked alongside his father, Raymond, who was company president.

He oversaw the department that developed Oxycontin, and later pushed the false stance that opioids were not highly addictive.

In getting FDA approval, Richard got officials to claim Oxycontin was less addictive than other painkillers – despite opiates being known for their addictive nature for thousands for years.

The New Yorker described him as "an enigmatic, slightly awkward man".

Richard and now ex-wife Beth had three children together – Rebecca, Marianna, and David.

Who are the Sackler family?


Purdue was founded in 1892 by doctors John Purdue Gray and George Frederick Bingham.

Raymond, along with his brothers Mortimer and Arthur, bought the company in 1952.

They initially sold earwax remover, laxatives and antiseptic before moving into the field of pain management in the 1990s.

Though he was the youngest of his siblings, Raymond's branch of the family has been the most active in Purdue.

He and wife Beverly had two sons – Richard and Jonathan.

The physician and businessman and died in 2017 aged 97.


Arthur, also a physician, was the eldest of his three brothers.

He worked in psychiatry and published numerous papers in the field, considering his research into the metabolic basis of schizophrenia his most significant contribution to science.

Arthur amassed a small fortune marketing tranquilizers Librium and Valium during the 1960s.

Outside of medicine, he also amassed the largest Chinese art collection in the world and established several galleries around the world.

Before his death in 1987, he advised his children to "leave the world a better place than when you entered it".

And since then, his wife Jillian has defended her late husband's reputation, which she claims has been tarnished by Purdue's role in the opioid crisis.

She said in 2018: "Passing judgment on Arthur’s life’s work through the lens of the opioid crisis some 30 years after his death is a gross injustice.

"It denies the many important contributions he made working to improve world health and to build cultural bridges between peoples."


The third son of Jewish immigrants Isaac and Sophie, Mortimer was a psychiatrist and entrepreneur.

Born in the US, Mortimer spent much of his life in the UK, studying in Scotland and then later moving to London.

He even renounced his American citizenship in 1974.

Mortimer, along with the rest of his family, has been blamed for the rise in Oxycontin addiction in America.

The New York Times reported that the family "knew that putting patients on high dosages of Oxycontin for long periods increased the risks of serious side effects, including addiction, nonetheless, they promoted higher dosages because stronger pain pills brought the company and the Sacklers the most profit".

Mortimer married three times and had seven surviving children.

Three served on the Pharma board of directors – Ilene, Kathe and Mortimer David – and Samantha, Marissa, Sophie and Michael did not.


Arthur's daughter Elizabeth, 73, is an American public historian and arts activist.

She has previously described Purdue's role in the opioid "national crisis" as "morally abhorrent".


David, one of Richard's three children, lives with wife Joss in New York with their three kids.

Despite serving on the Purdue board, David has insisted his family did not cause the opioid crisis.

He also said in an interview with Vanity Fair in 2019: "I have three young kids.

"My four-year-old came home from nursery school and asked, 'Why are my friends telling me that our family’s work is killing people?’"


Little is known about Richard's second born Marianna.

But author and political activist Ryan Hampton described her as "sullen and uncommunicative".

Hampton, who is in recovery from opioid addiction, told The New Yorker that when she needed money, she says, she simply asked her father or a family financial adviser for it.

And questioned about a $4.4-million payment she received some years ago, she says that she has no memory of it.


Rebecca, daughter of Richard and Beth, is believed to have been born in 1989.

She grew up with siblings Marianna and David in Greenwich, Connecticut.

A 2012 graduate of Yale College, Rebecca continued in the family's scientific footsteps to study at the University of California–Davis School of Veterinary Medicine.


Dame Theresa is one of the richest women in Britain.

She married Mortimer in 1980 and the couple had three children – Michael, Marissa and Sophie.

Sophie married England cricketer Jamie Dalrymple in 2009.

In 2019, it was revealed that Theresa had been named in the $500million lawsuit that alleges she helped fuel the opioid crisis.


Mortimer Sackler's daughter Kathe lives in New York and sits on the Purdue board.

Author Patrick Radden Keefe claimed Kathe insisted her family had no reason to apologize for coming up with "the idea" of Oxycontin, which was "very good medicine".


Raymond and his sons Richard and Jonathan were said to be the driving force behind the aggressive sales and marketing of Oxycontin.

His daughter Madeleine is a filmmaker and, in 2010, released a documentary highlighting independently run charter schools.

Jonathan died in 2020 aged 65.

According to a court filing, he passed away on June 30 from cancer.


Raymond's widow and Jonathan's late mother Beverly died in October 2019 aged 95.

She was one of the family members named in the 2019 lawsuit.


Ilene was one of Mortimer's seven children.

She, along with siblings Kathe and Mortimer David, served on the Purdue board of directors.

Ilene was married to American criminal defense lawyer Gerald Bernard Lefcourt, who has represented high-profile clients including convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein and actor Russell Crowe.

What was the Oxycontin epidemic?

The US has for years been plagued by an opioid epidemic which has killed hundreds of thousands of people.

More than 500,000 Americans have lost their lives from overdoses of prescription and illegal opioids since 1999, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Purdue Pharma, which pushed for the highly addictive Oxycontin to be rolled out to the masses, has been blamed for the crisis.

The company began production of the drug in 1995 and it is now the most commonly abused prescription drug in the country.

In August 2021, former Purdue president Richard insisted his family's reign over the Oxycontin maker did not contribute to the national opioid epidemic and downplayed his role in a marketing strategy that prosecutors said led to some unsafe opioid prescriptions.

The Sacklers have long denied wrongdoing in connection with the opioid-related lawsuits that led to the bankruptcy. Purdue has pleaded guilty to fraud and kickback charges.

Richard was also questioned about the Evolve to Excellence program, which according to federal prosecutors encouraged Purdue sales representatives to increase marketing to “extreme, high-volume prescribers”.

He said that while “elements of” Evolve to Excellence were presented to the Purdue board while he sat on it, he did not recall any vote to implement the strategy.

New miniseries Dopesick takes a critical look at Purdue's role in the epidemic.

What's happened to Purdue Pharma?

Purdue filed for bankruptcy protection in September 2019 and a year later reportedly reached a settlement potentially worth $8.3billion.

The company admitted it "knowingly and intentionally conspired and agreed with others to aid and abet" doctors dispensing medication "without a legitimate medical purpose".

In September 2021, the company was dissolved and the Sacklers paid $4.5billion to settle the numerous opioid claims.

On October 13, 2021, a federal judge allowed work to continue on the implementation of a controversial bankruptcy plan.

The government had urged the deal to be halted until it was reviewed on appeal, but Judge Colleen McMahon of the US District Court in Manhattan signaled support for a stay.

She said work on the settlement, valued at between $5 and $10billion, can continue.

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