Protesters urge Louvre to cut ties with donor over opioid crisis

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Protesters gathered outside the Louvre in Paris on Monday to condemn the museum’s ties with the Sackler family, billionaire donors accused of pushing a highly-addictive opioid blamed for tens of thousands of deaths.

Around 30 activists waved red banners reading “Shame on Sackler” and “Take down the Sackler” in front of the Louvre’s famous glass pyramid, while others played dead next to the museum’s fountain.

American group PAIN (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) and French charity AIDES want the museum to rename its Sackler Wing of Oriental Antiquities, which got its name after the family gave $3.6 million (3.2 million euros) to refurbish the space more than two decades ago.

The Louvre is the latest in a string of museums to face criticism over links to the Sackler family and their company Purdue Pharma, whose painkiller OxyContin is now subject to more than 1,000 lawsuits over its role in the US opioid crisis.

In recent months, galleries including New York’s Guggenheim and Metropolitan Museum, and London’s Tate and National Portrait Gallery, said they would stop accepting donations from the family.

In 2017, 47,000 people died in the United States as a result of overdosing on opioids including prescription drugs, heroin and fentanyl, the Centers for Disease Control says.

In the same year, another 1.7 million people suffered from addiction to painkillers like OxyContin.

There are hundreds of lawsuits in various US states against both Purdue and its owner the Sackler family, who are accused of pushing for the prescription of OxyContin despite knowing how addictive it is.

But worries about the medication are not confined to the US.

Last month, around 100 French doctors warned about the risk of a health crisis claiming there were “12 million people in France taking opioids” who had not been told about the potential for addiction and risk of overdose.

“The crisis is about to hit France,” American photographer Nancy Goldin, a former opioid addict, told the Paris protesters.

Purdue, she said, “is going bankrupt, so they’ve expanded to a company called Mundipharma, which is moving all over the world with the same deceptive marketing techniques and is pushing doctors to prescribe, just as they did in America.”

The Sacklers “are using museums to (white)wash their reputation,” she said, calling on the Louvre “to take down their name”.

A Louvre spokesperson told AFP they were aware of the protest.