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Meta through the Sackler Family lens

Not a fan of the Sackler Family? They were among the nation’s largest philanthropic donors and developed critically useful drugs including Librium, Valium, Oxycontin, and Fentanyl. Their opioid products were lifesavers to treat post-surgical pain.

So why are they now a pariah? Perhaps because they weren’t content to sell products only to folks who needed them. Like the British who forcibly exported Opium into China (18th Century), the Sacklers used bribery of FDA officials, fabrication of medical research, and a deceptive marketing campaign to get people hooked on their Opioids (for life). Were they deliberately evil? Not necessarily; rather they simply wanted to maximize profits. Others’ well-being never entered into their calculus.

Now that we have 100,000 US Opioid deaths/year and approx. 3 million Americans hooked on the stuff (Nat Inst of Health) it’s fair to say that the human and economic cost to clean up this mess will far exceed any profits that the family garnered.

While the Sacklers started the medical opioid blitzkrieg they eventually controlled less than 20% this market. Others quickly jumped in to share the spoils. In fact, Mallinckrodt’s Pharma market share was 30%.

Let’s talk about another type of addiction. One that impacts far more than 3 million Americans. A product that generally enervates the same brain pathways as Opium, alcohol, and cigarettes. Ergo is highly addictive.

A portion of the wreckage circa 2022 (Middle School/Teen girls):

• 70% indicated they were seriously depressed.

• 30% seriously considered suicide.

• 25% actually had a suicide plan.

And a (perhaps “the”) primary contributor to this? You guessed it social media. Study after study shows the negative impact on kids. Similarly to Opioids, the purveyors are “selling” their highly addictive product with essentially zero effective regulation. And the industry leader? The Sacklers of social media? Meta (Facebook/Instagram). Only Meta controls 67% of this market* Not 20% like the Sacklers did.

Findings from the Pew Research Center show nearly all American teens go online to engage with their peers every day and half report going online almost constantly. At the same time, nearly 3 in 5 teen girls report feeling so sad or hopeless, they can't participate in daily activities.

Do you trust Zuckerberg to look after the well-being of Americans any more than the Sacklers did? Is his motivation different? Should the federal government enlist some of the country’s smartest minds to develop a prudent plan to regulate Meta and its competitors? Or hope for the best? That certainly worked well for opioids.

*This data doesn’t include Tiktok. BTW, China has recently proposed legislation that would limit child smartphone use to 2 hours per day.

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