Raymond Sackler, the philanthropist and founder of the pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma, best known for its creation in 1995 of the synthetic version of morphine called OxyContin, has died, according to a report by Sam Roberts in the New York Times. Raymond and his wife, Beverly, financed the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Gallery for Assyrian Art and the Sackler Wing of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Freer and Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences at Tufts University, the Mortimer and Raymond Sackler Institute of Advanced Studies at the University of Tel Aviv, and the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Medical Research Center at the University of Cambridge School of Clinical Medicine, among other institutions and cultural programs. He was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 1995 for his contributions to science and the arts.
Born in Brooklyn in 1920, Sackler graduated from the borough’s Erasmus Hall High School and then earned a bachelor’s of science from New York University in 1938. He pursued his medical degree at Anderson College of Medicine in Glasgow, due to the imposed quotas on the number of Jewish students admitted to medical school in New York, and he also joined the British Home Guard and served as a plane spotter during World War II. Sackler eventually graduated from the now-closed Middlesex University Medical School in Waltham, Massachusetts. He and his brother Mortimer founded the Creedmoor Institute of Psychobiological Studies at the state hospital in Queens Village, NY, and along with another brother named Arthur they bought a small Greenwich Village drug manufacturer, the Purdue Frederick Company, in 1952, of which Raymond and Mortimer became cochairmen.
Their company began experimenting with generic oxycodone, which was originally invented in Germany during World War I, to create a time-release formula capable of spreading the analgesic narcotic’s effects across twelve hours, allowing patients in pain to sleep through the night. Before their eventual development of OxyContin, they created MS Contin in 1984, an extended-release morphine-based drug to relieve cancer pain.