Nan Goldin says the Sackler family ‘missed the chance to take away my voice’

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Artist and activist Nan Goldin has said the Sackler family “missed the chance to take away my voice”.

The 69-year-old is the founder of campaign group P.A.I.N. (Prescription Addiction Intervention Now) and has protested against the controversial family who founded pharmaceutical company Purdue Pharma.

In an interview with Channel 4 News, Goldin reflected on battling Purdue Pharma, a company that produces OxyContin, a painkiller which has prompted public concerns in relation to the US opioid crisis.

“I’m thrilled that we have actually succeeded in taking down a billionaire family at a time in America where there is one justice system for billionaires and another for the rest of us,” Goldin told Channel 4 News culture correspondent Minnie Stephenson.

In October last year, a documentary exploring Goldin’s long campaign against the Sacklers and Purdue Pharma, and her own struggles with opioid addiction, was released.

All The Beauty And The Bloodshed, directed by Laura Poitras, has since been nominated for an Oscar for best documentary feature, and is among the nominees for the Bafta for best documentary.

Explaining her view on the role of the film in drawing further attention to the Purdue Pharma scandal, Goldin said: “I’ve never been afraid of them. I think they missed the chance to take away my voice.”

Goldin also spoke candidly about her struggle with opioid addiction, which she developed after she was prescribed OxyContin for a wrist injury, adding: “(They) take away your pain. It’s the withdrawal from opioids that is almost impossible to go through.

“It’s a stripping of your skin and a darkness of your soul.”

For many years the Sackler name was synonymous with galleries and museums around the world, thanks to huge charitable donations made by the family to a number of famous institutions.

Recently, some institutions have distanced themselves from the family by refusing further donations and removing the name from galleries, rooms and endowments they supported.

The British Museum, National Portrait Gallery, Tate and the Roundhouse are among those in the UK to have cut ties with the Sacklers in recent years.

An international response has also seen venues such as the Louvre museum in Paris and New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art part ways with the family.

As part of her activism with P.A.I.N, Goldin has organised protests in some of the institutions to have been associated with the Sackler family.

Goldin has also hosted protests in the fountain at the Louvre and at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

On the success of the movement, Goldin said: “Given these times, everybody has to put their body on the line. Every single person has to find a way to fight back against the injustice and darkness.”

In response to Goldin’s interview, a spokesperson for Purdue Pharma told Channel 4: “We have the greatest sympathy and respect for those who have suffered as a result of the opioid crisis, and we are currently focused on concluding our bankruptcy so that urgently needed funds can flow to address the crisis.

“Under our planned settlement, Purdue Pharma would cease to exist and Knoa Pharma, a newly formed company with a public-minded mission, would emerge. The settlement would deliver over 10 billion dollars of value for opioid crisis abatement, overdose rescue medicines, and victim compensation.

“In fact, our settlement is the only opioid settlement to date where individual victims get paid. An overwhelming majority of our creditors (including the personal injury victims) support this settlement, and we are optimistic that it will be upheld in court.”

Purdue Pharma has been contacted for comment by the PA news agency.

Channel 4 News airs at 7pm.

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