Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren has announced she will donate $4,500 to offset donations from the Sackler family, which owns the pharmaceutical company that produces OxyContin — a widely abused opioid.
Donations from the Sackler family to Warren go back to 2012, and the senator most recently received $1,000 for her 2018 Senate campaign from Beverly Sackler, the wife of Purdue Pharma’s co-founder Raymond Sackler, according to the Wall Street Journal. When the publication inquired about these contributions, an aide to Warren said the money would be donated, though it’s unclear to what groups.
With the number of opioid-related deaths skyrocketing, drug companies aren’t popular with the public. In a recent poll, 56 percent of Americans said they want drug companies to be held accountable for worsening the opioid crisis. More than 1,600 civil lawsuits have been filed against these companies.
The news of the Sackler family’s donations comes on the same day Warren released her $100 billion plan to fight the opioid crisis. In her Medium post, Warren made direct digs at the Sackler family for their contributions to the opioid epidemic by pushing OxyContin.
“That’s the America we deserve,” she wrote. “An America where we take care of each other, where health care for every person who needs it matters more than rich families shielding their wealth. An America where when people like the Sacklers destroy millions of lives to make money, they don’t get museum wings named after them, they go to jail.”
In a statement, a spokeswoman for the Sackler family said, “Beverly Sackler is well into her 90s and denigrating her personal donation, made with the best intentions, can serve no proper political purpose.”
Warren’s proposed bill is an update of her 2018 CARE Act with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) that aims to increase addiction treatment and reduce overdose deaths over 10 years. Her plan isn’t cheap: Not only is Warren promising money to states, territories, tribal governments, local governments, and nonprofits, but she is also attempting to revamp the nation’s overall addiction treatment infrastructure . And she plans to fund her ambitious bill through a wealth tax on the superrich, which she has said would also raise enough money to fund student loan debt forgiveness, tuition-free college, and universal child care.
The opioid crisis is now the nation’s deadliest drug overdose epidemic, with 70,000 people dying from overdose in 2017 alone. Two-thirds of those deaths were linked to opioids. Congress has tried to address the problem: It approved $500 million a year for funding in 2016 and an additional $3.3 billion a year in 2018. However, experts say the CARE Act is the only plan that grasps the severity of the epidemic by recognizing it as a massive public health problem.
This article has been updated with a statement from the Sackler family.