via Instagram (@sacklerpain)

Nan Goldin demands a new opioid addiction drug be made free

The artist and her activist group PAIN go after the Sackler family, who own the Oxycontin-producing company Purdue

Nan Goldin has been fighting dutifully to hold those responsible for the opioid crisis to account and instigate some real change. This week (September 10), the artist and P.A.I.N activist group leader shared a statement in response to the news that Oxycontin manufacturer Purdue Pharma had patented a new anti-opioid treatment drug.

The statement, shared with artnet News, was written by Goldin, activist and writer Ryan Hampton, and activist art collective Queer Appalachia. They assert that the Sackler family, which owns Purdue and has strong art world ties as patrons to museums and galleries, is “profiting off the crisis that they subsidised”. 

It was recently reported that Rhodes Technologies Inc, a subsidiary of Purdue Pharma, had been granted a patent for a drug called buprenorphine, a milder opiate that can control cravings.

“This is reprehensible and shows a lack of any moral conscience. Maybe they can patent a funeral parlour next,” Goldin’s joint statement continues. 

Purdue, which manufactures the highly addictive Oxycontin, pled guilty to charges for misleading doctors, regulators, and patients about the opioid’s risk of addiction back in 2007. The company is being sued again for a deceptive marketing campaign.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, more than 115 people die each day in the United States after overdosing on opioids including OxyContin, heroin, and fentanyl. Approximately 80 percent of people who use heroin started out by misusing prescription pain killers.

While the new drug would create some life-saving addiction treatment, Goldin and the group outline that the Sackler family and Purdue have profited “surreptitiously” from the sales of alternative genderic opioids through their Rhode Island offshoot company. An investigation by the Financial Times found that, though Purdue claimed they’re only responsible for 1.7 per cent of opioid prescriptions in the U.S, their companies’ combined responsibility is more like a 6 per cent total share of the opioid market. “The Sacklers own their competitors,” the statement concludes.

Purdue has offered “seminars” for drug prescribers in recent months, which the statement declares are “fake”, while also slamming its relationships with politicians on drug policies. “Purdue is reaping what it has sown: more blood money”. The group asserts that the company will continue to pursue ways to profit from addiction now Oxycontin sales have been limited.

“There is only one acceptable solution. Any and all antidotes for opiate addiction developed by any member of the Sackler family, Purdue Pharma, or any person who has been affiliated with them, should be given for free to all who suffer from drug addiction,” the statement reads. 

“It is evil to profit from deliberately making people sick, then selling them a “cure” for their illness. This bait and switch has put millions of dollars in the Sackler family’s pockets, and hundreds of thousands of Americans into the ground. Many of the people affected by the opioid crisis are in rural, low income, industrial communities. They already carry the burden of overwhelming overdose rates, morgues that are filled with sons and daughters’ bodies, and crime, disease, and unemployment. Allowing the Sackler family to whitewash Purdue’s mess is hideously cruel and insurmountably cynical.”

P.A.I.N and their affiliates demand that the patent be released so the drug can be manufactured at a much lower cost by other companies, and that addiction is treated more as a chronic illness rather than a moral failing. Ultimately, they believe the Sacklers and any other associates of big pharma should not profit from addiction or pain. 

In the last year, Goldin and P.A.I.N have staged a huge ‘die-in’ protest at the Sackler wing of the Metropolitan Museum. The artist has also shared details of her own intense battle with addiction.

A statement provided by Purdue Pharma said that any reporting around the patent was “based on speculation”, and that they had yet to engage in FDA approval to bring the drug to market. 

Read the full statement on artnet News here.

Read Next
ListsEight of Jenny Saville’s most compelling art works
FeatureLessons from Annie Sprinkle, the radical sex positive educator of 1980s NYC
FeaturePC Erotic is the new age porn mag exploring the future of sex and tech
OpinionThe winner of an arts grant for people of colour isn’t actually black