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Barry Meier

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter and author of Pain Killer

  • About Barry Meier

    During a 28-year-long career at the New York Times, Barry Meier’s work exposed dangerous drugs and medical products, including a defective heart device and a generation of flawed artificial hips. He was also the first journalist to shine a spotlight on the widespread abuse of the painkiller OxyContin, and the drug’s aggressive making by its manufacturer, Purdue Pharma.

    In Pain Killer, which was first published in 2003, Meier chronicled how the little-known drug maker, turned OxyContin into a billion-dollar blockbuster by launching the biggest marketing campaign ever untaken by a pharmaceutical company for a powerful and potentially-addicting narcotic, a campaign that was based on a lie. He also told the story of Purdue Pharma’s secretive and wealthy owners, the Sacklers, a family whose name adorns museums worldwide, and the role that they played in transforming how drugs are advertised by co-opting the medical profession.

    Meier’s groundbreaking book is now celebrated as prescient and a masterful expose of the people who profited from the opioid crisis, those who paid the price, and those who tried to sound the alarm. In 2018, he released an updated and expanded edition of Pain Killer in which he again broke new ground with the shocking account of how the Justice Department failed to take steps that could have altered the trajectory of the opioid epidemic and saved thousands of lives.

    Meier’s talks delve deep into the reporting behind his award-winning investigations in order to highlight themes that everyone – citizens, elected officials, medical professionals and corporate and community leaders – can take to protect public and patient safety.

    In addition to Pain Killer, he is also the author of A World of Hurt, an investigation of ways to treat pain, and Missing Man, a riveting narrative of an FBI agent turned private investigator who disappeared in Iran, and the hunt to rescue him. He is a member of the New York Times reporting team that won the 2017 Pulitzer Prize for International Reporting and is also a two-time winner of the prestigious George Polk Award. He lives in New York with his wife and their daughter.

  • Speaking Topics

    To Help Stop an Epidemic, You Have to Understand How It Started.

    In 2017, 60,000 Americans died of overdoses involving prescription painkillers and illegal opioids like counterfeit forms of fentanyl. We now face a complex public health crisis of epic proportions that will require innovative and thoughtful solutions to solve it. In his landmark book Pain Killer, Barry Meier exposed the roots of this disaster by chronicling how the best intentions of doctors to treat pain were hijacked by Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin. Meier has also written extensively about the science of pain treatment. In this talk, he traces the history of the opioid crisis and shares his insight about how we can emerge from it.

    Journalists, Spies and Private Eyes

    In his book, Missing Man, Barry Meier tells the story of Robert Levinson, a former FBI agent turned CIA contractor who disappeared in Iran in 2007. Millions of people are aware of the Levinson case because of a video tape in which the former agent pleads to the US government for help or photographs that show him dressed in an orange jumpsuit like a Guantanamo prisoner. It is story peopled by characters now in the news such as Robert Mueller, Paul Manafort and Russian oligarchs. Barry Meier will share the remarkable, decade-long story behind the making of this critically acclaimed book including what he learned about the shadowy worlds of intelligence gathering and espionage.

  • Video

  • Praise for Barry Meier

    Praise for Missing Man

    Fortunately this book is listed as non-fiction, otherwise I would not have believed the story it tells. Kafka could not have invented a more bizarre landscape than this one. Cat and mouse, reality and fantasy, Iran and the United States—all are mixed into a devil's brew of espionage, wild exploits, triple-crosses and still-unsolved mysteries.

    Stephen Kinzer, author of All the Shah's Men: An American Coup and the Roots of Middle East Terror

    With the pace and tension of a classic thriller and the keen eye of a seasoned journalist, Barry Meier gives us a true story of the human beings behind the headlines of Middle Eastern turmoil. A great, highly recommended read.

    James Grady, author of Six Days of the Condor

    A chilling real-world espionage yarn.

    Kirkus Reviews

    In this comprehensive and sometimes chilling report on the circumstances surrounding Levinson’s disappearance and subsequent efforts to find him, New York Times reporter and Pulitzer finalist Meier turns Levinson’s story into a case study on the complicated and politically messy nature of modern-day espionage . . . A sharply written, if often unsettling, exposé of the contemporary intelligence world.


    Gripping . . . Meier presents a moving account of Levinson's family, who struggle to come to terms with his still unresolved fate and are desperately trying to get the U.S. government to help find him, while shining a much-needed light on the murky world of private intelligence contractors.

    Publishers Weekly

    The CIA's side of this story remains classified. But Barry Meier's book, Missing Man, provides more than enough information to make sense of Mr. Levinson's tragic trip to Kish.

    Reuel Marc Gerecht, The Wall Street Journal

    Important and troubling . . . Judging by Meier's account, if there ever was a case for blowing up the CIA and starting over, the Levinson affair is it.

    Jeff Stein, Newsweek

    The tale of Robert Levinson . . . underscores the dangers of the multi-headed bureaucratic monster called the CIA.

    Valerie Plame, The Washington Post

    Intrigue abounds in Missing Man. . . It exposes the storied workings of global spycraft . . . Fascinating.

    Jeff Sharlett, Bookforum

    Barry Meier’s Missing Man is an artful piece of investigative reporting . . . Meier has finely choreographed Bob Levinson’s story, and brought it into the light from the shadow world where most US governmental agencies seem to have wish it had stayed. Meier’s style is brio and dash, always with a trail of crumbs, while handfuls of grit and episodes of hateful behavior are thrown in for texture.

    Peter Lewis, The Christian Science Monitor

    Meier's fascinating cat-and-mouse tale about government cover-ups, bungled investigations and the Levinson family's anguished pursuit of the truth is straight out of a Homeland episode.


    Constructed as a nonfiction thriller, Missing Man is at its core a tragedy, Death of a Salesman in the Persian Gulf.

    Karl Vick, Time

    Praise for Pain Killer

    An absorbing indictment of the modern health-care marketing industry, which, as depicted here, has blurred the line between medical ‘education’ and shilling.

    Publishers Weekly

    A thriller.

    Minneapolis Star-Tribune

    Prescient . . . a landmark work of investigative journalism.

    David A. Kessler, former commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration and author of The End of Overeating

    A timely, compelling, important book.

    The Seattle Times


    The New York Times
  • Books by Barry Meier

  • Media About Barry Meier

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  • 212 572-2013
  • Barry Meier travels from New York, NY

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