Gallery Owner Plans More Heroin Spoon Protests To Highlight Big Pharma’s Role In The Opioid Epidemic

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Steve Birr Vice Reporter
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A Connecticut-based art gallery owner recently arrested for leaving an 800-pound sculpture of a burnt heroin spoon outside the offices of Purdue Pharma says he is just getting started.

Fernando Luis Alvarez, from Stamford, Connecticut, says his actions against the makers of OxyContin marks the beginning of the “Spoon Movement.” He plans to deliver new heroin spoon sculptures to the headquarters of the various top pharmaceutical companies manufacturing opioid painkillers to highlight their alleged complicity in the national addiction crisis, reported the Hartford Courant.

The first 800-pound heroin spoon sculpture, made by artist Domenic Esposito, appeared Friday in the vehicle drop-off section outside Purdue’s corporate headquarters. Police arrested Alvarez over the “guerrilla art,” charging him with a misdemeanor for placing the sculpture at the building. (RELATED: American Cartel: Nonprofits Unapologetically Accepted Millions In ‘Blood Money’ From Opioid Profiteers)

“We are going after pharma companies, distributors, politicians and doctors,” Alvarez told the Hartford Courant Tuesday. “Every time we go to a new company we will have a new spoon. That spoon will be taken away by the cops and I’ll get arrested and after that they will give it back and we will donate the spoon to a city that is suing the companies.”

He said he started with Purdue Pharma because he sees them as the “architects” of the current crisis. Esposito, who named his sculpture “Purdue,” said his brother has struggled with a heroin addiction for 14 years, resulting in several overdoses that began with prescription painkillers.

The activism is also intended to call out the Sackler family, the billionaire owners of Purdue, who largely built their fortune off sales of OxyContin. (RELATED: How One Painkiller Ignited The Addiction Epidemic)

“Artists, through their work, can hold accountable the architects of this epidemic,” Alvarez told the Hartford Courant.

Medical professionals say a shift in the 1990s to “institutionalize” pain management opened the doors for pharmaceutical companies to encourage doctors to massively increase painkiller prescriptions, and Purdue Pharma led that effort.

The company, which ended its marketing practice of promoting painkillers to health care professionals in February, previously pleaded guilty in 2007 to felony charges for false marketing of OxyContin and paid $635 million as a result.

“We share the protesters’ concern about the opioid crisis, and respect their right to peacefully express themselves,” Robert Josephson, spokesman for Purdue Pharma, told the Hartford Courant Friday.

The Sackler family is listed at 19th on the annual Forbes list of wealthiest families in the country at a worth of $13 billion. The family’s fortune largely comes from OxyContin sales, which its company branded and introduced as an extended release painkiller in 1995.

Purdue Pharma is facing 24 lawsuits filed by state attorneys general and more than 400 lawsuits from cities and counties across the country. They accuse the company of orchestrating a fraudulent marketing scheme to boost sales of OxyContin that downplayed the risks for addiction from pain medication.

The company denies allegations of complicity in the opioid epidemic and claims they are committed to curbing rates of opioid abuse.

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