On September 10, 2018 photographer Nan Goldin continued her protest of Purdue Pharma, which she believes is turning a profit off of opioid addiction — and this time she brought backup. Hyperallergic reports that Goldin’s organization P.A.I.N. Sackler, the Appalachian-based arts collective Queer Appalachia and leadership group the Voices Project joined forces in a statement condemning Purdue’s investment in a new form of the drug buprenorphine, used to treat opioid addiction.
P.A.I.N. Sackler’s acronym stands for “Prescription Addiction Intervention Now” and derives the second part of its name from the Sackler family, the principal owners of Purdue Pharma. Best known for her mid-80s series of photographs “The Ballad of Sexual Dependency,” which depicted the heroin subculture in New York City, Goldin, a former heroin addict who became addicted to the Purdue-produced drug OxyContin in 2014 following a surgery, is uniquely positioned to take on the Sacklers, who are noted patrons of the arts. She began her fight against them with a Change.Org petition in 2017 and has since moved the battle lines to the Sacklers’ namesake galleries.
In March, Goldin led a “die-in” at the Met’s Sackler Wing (named for the family, who are prominent donors) and in July she teamed up with Harvard medical students to stage a similar protest at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum in Cambridge, MA. In the joint statement, P.A.I.N. Sackler accuses the pharmaceutical dynasty of trying to monetize the blight of addiction they helped create by selling a new version of the cure.
“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…. OxyContin should not be a ‘gateway drug’ for Purdue’s other products. Recovery must belong to people, not corporations who cause and profit off our pain. Shame on the Sacklers and shame on the federal government.”
Hyperallergic reports Dr. Richard Sackler is one of six investors for the new form of buprenorphine, a “wafer” which is patented over the already-available pill and film forms for being faster to ingest and harder to smuggle or resell. Goldin’s group received support from Dr. Sackler’s cousin, Elizabeth A. Sackler, in January of this year.
“The opioid epidemic is a national crisis and Purdue Pharma’s role in it is morally abhorrent to me,” Sackler wrote to Hyperallergic. “I admire Nan Goldin’s commitment to take action and her courage to tell her story. I stand in solidarity with artists and thinkers whose work and voices must be heard.”
PJ Grisar is the Forward’s culture intern. He can be reached at Grisar@Forward.com.