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Purdue Pharma spoon-sculpture protest reprised in R.I.

February 7, 2019 GMT

STAMFORD — The Boston-based artist and activist who installed a massive spoon sculpture last June outside the downtown headquarters of OxyContin maker Purdue Pharma staged a similar protest Thursday outside the Rhode Island main offices of Rhodes Pharmaceuticals, another opioid producer reportedly controlled by Purdue’s controversial owners.

Domenic Esposito’s latest demonstration featured another 800-pound spoon. The solid-aluminum figure was stained like the original to represent burnt heroin and engraved with the Rhodes name on its handle.

Esposito’s new protest comprised part of his “Opioid Spoon Project,” an initiative that aims to inform the public about the “players” responsible for the opioid epidemic. Rhodes is owned by members of the Sackler family and ranks among the largest U.S. producers of off-patent, generic opioids, according to the Financial Times.

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Sackler family members have come under growing scrutiny in recent weeks, in the wake of hundreds of pages of documents released in a lawsuit by Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, who alleges that eight Sacklers who sit on the Purdue board fueled the opioid crisis by orchestrating the deceptive and relentless marketing of the company’s opioids.

Connecticut filed last December a similar lawsuit, which also named as defendants the same group of Sacklers. Purdue denies the allegations.

“Lawsuits don’t have an effect on Big Pharma, as they continue to find ways to profit, pay their fines and carry on, making billions,” Esposito said in a statement. “Rhodes needed to be exposed so the public is aware of the strategic initiatives Big Pharma is willing to carry out to profit from.”

Messages left Thursday for a Rhodes spokesman were not returned.

With Stamford art-gallery owner Fernando Luis Alvarez, Esposito installed the original 800-pound spoon on June 22 outside Purdue’s headquarters at 201 Tresser Blvd. Esposito said the stain on the sculpture represented the burnt spoon that his mother would find when his brother relapsed during his battle with opioid addiction.

The novelty of the demonstration drew international attention and took place during a summer marked by several major protests of the company’s role in the opioid epidemic.

Alvarez was arrested for his role in the protest, but later allowed to participate in an accelerated-rehabilitation program. He would be cleared of all charges if he avoids contact with Purdue for one year.

Esposito was not arrested Thursday, a spokesman for the Coventry, R.I. police department confirmed to Hearst Connecticut Media.

pschott@scni.com; 203-964-2236; twitter: @paulschott