If the devil wears Prada, what do America’s most destructive drug pushers wear? They wear smiles. The drug pushers we have in mind here have caused hundreds of thousands of deaths, enough fatalities to decrease overall U.S. life expectancy at birth for the last two years running. Yet no police SWAT teams have pounded down any doors hunting these drug pushers down.
These particular drug pushers have devastated millions of families across the United States. Yet some of America’s most honorable institutions, outfits ranging from Yale University to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, have spent decades lauding their philanthropic generosity and benevolence.
We’re obviously not talking El Chapo or any of his drug-running buddies here. We’re talking about the mega-billionaire family behind one of America’s most profitable drug-industry empires, the privately held Purdue Pharma.
Last week, flacks at Purdue announced that the company will no longer be flooding doctors’ offices with sales representatives hawking OxyContin, the now-notorious opioid painkiller. This move may be the closest admission of guilt we will ever see from Purdue Pharma — or the patriarchs of the Sackler family that gave it birth.
The roots of Purdue’s criminal profiteering, as Patrick Radden Keefe has chillingly related in the New Yorker, stretch all the way back to three brothers in mid-20th century Brooklyn. All three — Arthur, Mortimer, and Raymond Sackler — became doctors. All three had an entrepreneurial bent. Arthur had entrepreneurial genius.
Arthur Sackler saw that the pharmaceutical industry of his day had no clue to the marketing magic — and magical profits — that modern Madison Avenue advertising approaches could fashion. He linked the two. His ad agency pioneered tactics that would revolutionize prescription drug marketing.