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Greenwich's Dr. Raymond Sackler, Maker Of OxyContin, Dies At 97

Raymond Sackler of Greenwich, with his wife, Beverly, died July 17 at the age of 97. Sackler founded Stamford-based Purdue Pharma, which developed Oxycontin, with his brothers.
Raymond Sackler of Greenwich, with his wife, Beverly, died July 17 at the age of 97. Sackler founded Stamford-based Purdue Pharma, which developed Oxycontin, with his brothers. Photo Credit: Purdue Pharma

STAMFORD, Conn. – Dr. Raymond Sackler of Greenwich, a co-founder of the Stamford-based drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma, died July 17 after a brief illness. He was 97 1/2 years old.

Sackler was a philanthropist, physician, entrepreneur and business leader. With his brothers, they grew the Purdue Pharma drug empire, becoming wealthy through the development of drugs for pain management, most notably OxyContin.

The brother used those riches for philanthropic purposes in the arts and sciences around the world.

For more than 50 years, he and his wife contributed directly and through the Raymond and Beverly Sackler Foundations to areas spanning biomedical research, the physical and engineering sciences, and the arts.

Dr. Raymond Sackler and his brothers, Arthur and Mortimer, both also deceased, are also associated with the Sackler Wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the Freer and Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington as well as other cultural, scientific, and educational institutions around the world.

Raymond Sackler began his education at Erasmus High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., and attended New York University, where he received his bachelor's degree in 1938. He then pursued his medical degree, beginning at Anderson College of Medicine in Glasgow, Scotland, where he volunteered in the UK home guard and plane spotter in the first year of World War II.

Due to the war, he completed his studies at the Middlesex University School of Medicine, on the site of current day Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass. In 1944, he received his medical degree. He was certified in psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology.

Early in his career, Sackler moved strongly away from the then-dominant Freudian psychiatric model and explored and participated in research at the frontiers of psychopharmacology, the field that transformed the treatment of many psychiatric illnesses.

Based on his background in medicine and medical research, Sackler and his brother Dr. Mortimer Sackler purchased Purdue in 1952 when it was located on Christopher Street in New York City.

They began a pharmaceutical business that has operated for 65 years, developing and marketing medicines, healthcare products and antiseptics for pain management, respiratory, gastrointestinal and other conditions. Purdue Pharma introduced and marketed the painkiller OxyContin.

OxyContin, an opioid produced from a synthetic form of morphine, was introduced in the 1990s. Sales of the drug produced more than $3 billion in revenue in 2010, according to Fortune magazine.

Certified by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology in 1957, and a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, Dr. Sackler and his two brothers were co-founders of the Creedmoor Institute for Psychobiological Studies in New York City, where they engaged in research in the biology of schizophrenia and psychosis.

He is survived by his wife Beverly, and their two sons.

Memorial contributions can be made to Greenwich Hospital, 5 Perryridge Road, Greenwich, CT 06830.

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