Arthur M. Sackler

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Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler-crop.jpg
Arthur Mitchell Sackler

(1913-08-22)August 22, 1913
DiedMay 26, 1987(1987-05-26) (aged 73)
EducationDoctor of Medicine
Alma materNew York University School of Medicine
  • Else Finnich Jorgensen (m. 1934—divorced)
  • Marietta Lutze (m. 1949—divorced)
  • Jillian Lesley Tully (m. 1981)
Children4, including Elizabeth Sackler

Arthur Mitchell Sackler (August 22, 1913 – May 26, 1987) was an American psychiatrist and marketer of pharmaceuticals whose fortune originated in medical advertising and trade publications. He is remembered as a philanthropist and art collector.[1][2]

Sackler amassed the largest Chinese art collection in the world, which he donated to the Smithsonian. He provided the funds needed to build numerous art galleries and schools of medicine. Sackler's estate was estimated at $140 million.[3]

Family and education[edit]

Born in Brooklyn to Isaac and Sophie (née Greenberg) Sackler, Jewish grocers who came to New York from the Ukraine and Poland before World War I, Sackler was the eldest of three sons.[4][5][6] Sackler graduated from Erasmus Hall High School.[7] In The New Yorker, Patrick Radden Keefe called him a polymath for his varied interests.[8] He attended New York University School of Medicine and graduated with a M.D.[9] Sackler paid his tuition by working as a copywriter in 1942 at William Douglas McAdams, an ad agency specializing in medicine, a company that he would buy in 1947 and revolutionize.[8][9] He also studied sculpture at the Educational Alliance and art history classes at Cooper Union.[10]


Sackler completed his residency in psychiatry at the Creedmoor Psychiatric Center. From 1949 to 1954, he was director of research at Creedmoor Institute for Psychobiological Studies. He specialized in biological psychiatry.[10][11] Sackler collaborated on hundreds of papers based on neuroendocrinology, psychiatry, and experimental medicine.[12] He was said to be the first physician to use ultrasound as a diagnostic tool.[11] All three brothers studied in Scotland,[13] became psychiatrists, and joined the research staff at Creedmoor. They had a friend and collaborator, director Johan H. W. Van Ophuijsen, who was described by Arthur Sackler as "Freud's favorite disciple."[8]

In 1951, the three brothers and Van Ophuijsen published a summary of their work,[14] which became known as the "Sackler method."[15] Human subject research, which was stopped for the most part after World War II, did not yet have the oversight of the Nuremberg Code and later the Declaration of Helsinki and the Belmont Report.[16] The Sacklers sought to find a substitute for what could be relatively intrusive electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). They treated with histamine persons who had schizophrenia, persons who had bipolar disorder then termed manic depression, and persons with involutional psychosis now an unrecognized illness somewhat like depression.[14] Patients were given injections of histamine of increasing strength for up to 24 days.[14] The treatment caused their blood pressure to drop; when their blood pressure recovered, they were given a stronger dose, until blood pressure reached 60/0 mm Hg.[14] Some patients received combination treatments of histamine coupled with insulin or ECT.[14]

Art collection[edit]

Sackler and his wife Else began collecting art in the 1940s, shortly after his graduation from NYU. They were attracted to contemporary works and loved Marc Chagall but also collected Renaissance majolica and Post-Impressionist and School of Paris paintings.[17] He considered himself "more of a curator than collector" who preferred acquiring collections to individual pieces. His collection was composed of tens of thousands of works including Chinese, Indian, and Middle Eastern art as well as Renaissance and pre-Columbian pieces.[1] In a speech at Stony Brook University in New York, he discussed his idea that art and science were "interlinked in the humanities".[18]

A small Chinese table in a New York furniture dealer put Chinese art into focus for Sackler who thought, "that here was an esthetic not commonly appreciated or understood." Following the Chinese Civil War, exporters cashed out their holdings and young collectors like Sackler were fortunate to be good targets. He amassed tens of thousands of objects in his life, representing wide and varied interests—Shang dynasty oracle bones, Achaemenid vessels from Iran, and South Asian temple sculpture from the tenth to fourteenth century. Some works are of exhibition quality and some are more appropriate for studies.[17]

He later gave money quarterly to psychiatrist Paul Singer, another enthusiastic collector of Chinese works, who did not have funds but whose taste Sackler trusted. The one string attached to the gift was that upon Singer's death, his collection would be given to a Sackler gallery.[19]


In the early 1940s he joined medical advertising agency William Douglas McAdams Inc.,[20] where he remained active until his death.[21] Sackler transformed the agency with sales techniques hitherto unknown to pharmaceutical manufacturers. A Harvard University historian wrote in 2019 that the Sacklers did not invent direct sales to physicians but they were a pioneering influence. Arthur Sackler marketed in publications targeting physicians directly which increased the pace at which doctors learned about medicines and brought them to market, but did not ever participate in sales force canvasing and detailing, a technique now under tremendous scrutiny.[22]

The Medical Advertising Hall of Fame wrote in 1998,

"No single individual did more to shape the character of medical advertising than the multi-talented Dr. Arthur Sackler. His seminal contribution was bringing the full power of advertising and promotion to pharmaceutical marketing."[22]

With Sackler's help, the pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, previously a chemical manufacturer, began its business in prescription drugs.[23] In 1950, Pfizer had 8 salesmen and expanded that force to 2000 in 1957.[22] Between 1950 and 1956, with Sackler's guidance, Pfizer competed in the new antibiotic marketplace with Terramycin.[22]

Through direct marketing to physicians during the 1960s, he popularized dozens of medicines including Betadine, Senaflax, Librium, and Valium. He became a publisher and started a weekly medical newspaper in 1960, the Medical Tribune, which eventually reached six hundred thousand physicians[24] (by some reports his audience was a million[25] physicians in 20 countries). Sackler's marketing of Valium in journals like Medical Tribune helped to make it the first drug to generate $100 million in sales, and by 1971, Librium and Valium earned $2 billion for his client, Hoffmann-La Roche.[26] As a result of his success, many other drug companies began marketing their drugs in a similar fashion.[27]

Professor Evan Gerstmann wrote in Forbes,"Of course, fraudulent marketing is very wrong indeed. But it is an absurd inversion of logic to say that because Arthur Sackler pioneered direct marketing to physicians, he is responsible for the fraudulent misuse of that technique."[28]

Purdue Pharma[edit]

In 1952, Sackler arranged financing for his brothers to purchase the Purdue-Frederick Company. Purdue came to sell practical over-the-counter products like the antiseptic Betadine, the laxative Senokot, and earwax remover Cerumenex.[5] The company also sold MS Contin,[29] or morphine with time-release properties, for which the patent was to expire in the late 1980s.[8] Following Arthur's death in 1987, his option on one third of that company was sold by his estate to his brothers Mortimer and Raymond,[30] who owned the separate company named Purdue Pharma and used Purdue Fredrick as a holding company.

Eight years after Arthur's death, Purdue began selling OxyContin, about 1.5 times the strength of morphine.[31] That company pleaded guilty in 2007 and was fined $640 million for misbranding OxyContin.[32] Critics of the Sackler family and Purdue contend that the same marketing techniques used when Arthur consulted to pharmaceutical companies selling non-opioid medications were later abused in the marketing of OxyContin by his brothers and his nephew, Richard Sackler, contributing to the opioid epidemic. According to The Guardian, extended Sackler family members face criminal fraud and racketeering charges for the manner in which OxyContin has been used by the public, with "relatives of Arthur Sackler ... not suspected of any wrongdoing."[33]

Later career[edit]

Sackler is credited with helping to racially integrate New York City's first blood banks.[34][35]

He was editor of the Journal of Clinical and Experimental Psychobiology from 1950-1962.

Sackler had somewhat unusual overlapping businesses and developed silent partnerships with the L. W. Frolich ad agency and MD Publications owned by his friends.[10]

In 1958, Sackler established the Laboratories for Therapeutic Research. He was director of the facility until 1983.[12] Sackler also served as chairman of the board of Medical Press, Inc. and president of Physicians News Service, Inc., as well as the Medical Radio and TV Institute, Inc.[36] He served on the board of trustees of New York Medical College where he also held a position as a research professor of psychiatry.[37]

In 1981, Sackler served as vice-chairman of the first international conference on nutrition held in Tianjin, China.[38] He joined the board of directors of Scientific American in 1985.[39] In 1985, Linus Pauling dedicated his book How to Live Longer and Feel Better to him.[40] In 1997, Arthur was posthumously inducted into the Medical Advertising Hall of Fame.[41]


Sackler built and contributed to many scientific institutions, throughout the 1970s and 1980s. His notable contributions included:

Sackler donated drawings and paintings by the Italian architect and engraver Giovanni Battista Piranesi to Avery Library at Columbia University in the early 1970s.[9]

He founded galleries at the Metropolitan Museum of Art where the Sackler Wing houses the Temple of Dendur, and Princeton University, the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology. In 1987, the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, in Washington, D.C. was opened months after his death, with a gift of $4 million and 1,000 original artworks.[1][42][43] Sackler's collection that was donated to the Smithsonian was considered the largest collection of ancient Chinese art in the world according to Wen Fong of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[11] Following his death, The Jillian and Arthur M. Sackler Wing of Galleries was opened at the Royal Academy of Arts,[44] and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum of Art and Archaeology opened at Peking University in 1993.[18]

Personal life[edit]

Sackler was married three times.[9] His first wife was Else Finnich Jorgensen from Denmark; they married in 1934, had two children, and divorced. The second wife was Marietta Lutze (1919–2019)[45], co-owner of de:Dr. Kade Pharmazeutische Fabrik[46]; married in 1949, they had two children and divorced after 25 years. His last wife until his death was Jillian Lesley Tully who directs philanthropic projects in his name through the Dame Jillian Sackler and Arthur M. Sackler Foundation for the Arts, Sciences and Humanities.[47] Sackler had four children, Carol Master and Elizabeth Sackler from his first marriage, and Arthur F. Sackler and Denise Marica from the second.[1][45]

He lived on Fifth Avenue in New York.[9] At nearly 70 years old, he maintained a gruelling work schedule, starting work at 8:30 A.M. seven days a week, traveling to Boston and Washington, DC, to conduct scholarship, to work on science, and to collect art.[10] Sackler died of a heart ailment at Presbyterian Hospital in New York City on May 26, 1987.[9]


Senator Estes Kefauver's subcommittee examined the pharmaceutical industry in 1959. He felt that Arthur Sackler possessed an "integrated" empire of drug discovery and manufacture, drug marketing and advertising, and medical publications explicitly for promoting drug sales.[8] He stopped investigating Sackler in mid-1960, and went on to sponsor the Kefauver Harris Amendment which improved FDA drug oversight in 1962.[22]

Psychiatrist Allen Frances told The New Yorker in 2017, “Most of the questionable practices that propelled the pharmaceutical industry into the scourge it is today can be attributed to Arthur Sackler.”[24][48]

Barry Meier wrote in Pain Killer that Arthur Sackler, "helped pioneer some of the most controversial and troubling practices in medicine: the showering of favors on doctors, the lavish spending on consultants and experts ready to back a drugmaker’s claims, the funding of supposedly independent commercial interest groups, the creation of publications to serve as industry mouthpieces, and the outright exploitation of scientific research for marketing purposes."[49]

Awards and honors[edit]

Sackler received honorary doctorates from Clark University, Hahnemann University, Tufts University, and Mount Sinai School of Medicine. He was a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and was awarded the Egyptian Order of Merit. He and his wife Jillian endowed the Arthur M. Sackler Colloquia which are held at the National Academy of Sciences.[50]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Glueck, Grace (May 27, 1987). "Dr. Arthur Sackler Dies at 73; Philanthropist and Art Patron". The New York Times. Retrieved May 11, 2014.
  2. ^ Smith, J.Y. (May 27, 1987). "Arthur Sackler dies at 73". The Washington Post. Retrieved December 31, 2017.
  3. ^ "In the Matter of The Estate of Arthur M. Sackler, Deceased". Leagle. Retrieved May 17, 2019.
  4. ^ Shapiro, Edward S. (May 1, 1995). A Time for Healing: American Jewry Since World War II. Johns Hopkins University Press. p. 120. ISBN 9780801851247.
  5. ^ a b Langer, Emily (July 21, 2017). "Raymond Sackler, philanthropist and maker of OxyContin, dies at 97". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 11, 2019.
  6. ^ Walters, Joanna (February 13, 2018). "Meet the Sacklers: the family feuding over blame for the opioid crisis". The Guardian. Retrieved May 11, 2019.
  7. ^ "Famous Alumni". Erasmus Hall Alumni Association. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  8. ^ a b c d e Patrick Radden Keefe (October 23, 2017). "The Family That Built an Empire of Pain". The New Yorker. Condé Nast. Retrieved May 11, 2019.
  9. ^ a b c d e f "Arthur Sackler Dies at 73". The Washington Post. May 27, 1987.
  10. ^ a b c d Glueck, Grace (June 5, 1983). "An Art Collector Sows Largesse and Controversy". The New York Times.
  11. ^ a b c Tuck, Lon (September 21, 1986). "Convictions of the Collector". The Washington Post.
  12. ^ a b c The Role of Science in Solving the Earth Emerging Water Problems. National Academies Press. September 15, 2005.
  13. ^ "Mortimer Sackler". The University of Glasgow. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  14. ^ a b c d e Sackler, Mortimer D., MD; Sackler, Raymond R., MD; Sackler, Arthur M., MD; Van Ophuijsen, J. H. W., MD (January 1951). "The Technique of Histamine Biochemo-therapy and Suggestions for its Use in Psychiatry". The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 113 (1): 40–51. doi:10.1097/00005053-195101000-00003. PMID 14814544.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  15. ^ Lucy, John D. (1954). "Histamine Tolerance in Schizophrenia". AMA Arch NeurPsych. 71 (5): 629–639. doi:10.1001/archneurpsyc.1954.02320410091010.
  16. ^ Rice, Todd W. (October 2008). "The Historical, Ethical, and Legal Background of Human-Subjects Research". Respiratory Care. 53 (10): 1325–1329. PMID 18811995.
  17. ^ a b Gurakar, Melda; Rodman, Melissa; Wang, Joy; Yared, Leah (2016). "Arthur M. Sackler Gallery". Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  18. ^ a b "Arthur M. Sackler, M.D." National Academy of Sciences.
  19. ^ Cotter, Holland (September 15, 1999). "CRITIC'S NOTEBOOK: A Gift Shines Light Upon Ancient China; 5,000-Piece Art Collection Tells Some Unusual Tales". The New York Times. Retrieved May 12, 2019.
  20. ^ "MAHF Inductees Arthur M. Sackler". Medical Advertising Hall of Fame.
  21. ^ "Arthur M. Sackler". Medical Advertising Hall of Fame. Retrieved May 10, 2019.
  22. ^ a b c d e Podolsky, Scott H., MD; Herzberg, David, Ph.D.; Greene, Jeremy A., Ph.D. MD (2019). "Preying on Prescribers (and Their Patients) — Pharmaceutical Marketing, Iatrogenic Epidemics, and the Sackler Legacy". N Engl J Med. 380 (19): 1785–1787. doi:10.1056/NEJMp1902811.
  23. ^ Morrell, Alex (July 1, 2015). "The OxyContin Clan: The $14 Billion Newcomer to Forbes 2015 List of Richest U.S. Families". Forbes. Retrieved May 11, 2019.
  24. ^ a b Keefe, Patrick Radden (October 23, 2017). "The Family That Built an Empire of Pain". The New Yorker. ISSN 0028-792X. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  25. ^ "Arthur M. Sackler". Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  26. ^ Koumjian, Kevin (1981). "The use of Valium as a form of social control". Social Science & Medicine. Part E: Medical Psychology. 15 (3): 245–249. doi:10.1016/0271-5384(81)90020-X. ISSN 0271-5384.
  27. ^ Eban, Katerin (November 9, 2011). "OxyContin: Purdue Pharma's Painful Medicine". Fortune.
  28. ^ Gerstmann, Evan (May 10, 2019). "Harvard, Arthur Sackler And The Perils Of Indiscriminate Shaming". Forbes. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  29. ^ "MS CONTIN" (PDF). US FDA. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  30. ^ "Our Incomplete List of Cultural Institutions and Initiatives Funded by the Sackler Family". Hyperallergic. January 11, 2018. Retrieved March 19, 2018.
  31. ^ "Elizabeth A. Sackler Supports Nan Goldin in Her Campaign Against OxyContin". Hyperallergic. January 22, 2018. Retrieved January 23, 2018.
  32. ^ Meier, Barry (May 10, 2007). "In Guilty Plea, OxyContin Maker to Pay $600 Million". The New York Times. Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  33. ^ Walters, Joanna (November 19, 2018). "Sackler family members face mass litigation and criminal investigations over opioids crisis". The Guardian.
  34. ^ "Art and activism: The compass points of Elizabeth Sackler's storied career". Women in the World. January 8, 2016. Retrieved March 18, 2018.
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  36. ^ The Competitive Status of the U.S. Pharmaceutical Industry: The Influences of Technology in Determining International Industrial Competitive Advantage. National Academies. January 1, 1983.
  37. ^ "Arthur M. Sackler". Albuquerque Journal. May 29, 1987.
  38. ^ "Vitamin C heightens intelligence, nutritionists say". UPI. June 10, 1981.
  39. ^ "For Sale: Scientific American". The New York Times. March 29, 1986.
  40. ^ Pauling, Linus (1987). How to Live Longer and Feel Better (1 ed.). New York: Avon Books. OL 18076125M.
  41. ^ "Medical Advertising Hall of Fame Inductees". Medical Advertising Hall of Fame. Retrieved December 29, 2017.
  42. ^ Karl E. Meyer, Shareen Blair Brysac (March 10, 2015). The China Collectors: America's Century-Long Hunt for Asian Art Treasures. Macmillan.
  43. ^ "Sackler Art Museum to Open at Harvard". The New York Times.
  44. ^ "Arthur M. Sackler Foundation Donates Works of Art". Mount Holyoke College Art Museum.
  45. ^ a b "Obituary Marietta Lutze Sackler". Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  46. ^ "Marietta Lutze Sackler, Former Co-Owner at DR. KADE Pharmazeutische Fabrik GmbH - Relationship Science". Retrieved May 13, 2019.
  47. ^ "Smithsonian's Sackler Gallery celebrates 25th anniversary". The Washington Post. December 2, 2012.
  48. ^ "The Secretive Family Making Billions From the Opioid Crisis". Esquire. October 16, 2017. Retrieved October 22, 2017.
  49. ^ Meier, Barry (2018). Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America's Opioid Epidemic. p. 52. ISBN 978-0525511090.
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