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Barry Meier

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter behind the Netflix hit, “Painkiller”

  • About Barry Meier

    Barry Meier is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist whose landmark book, Pain Killer, first exposed the roots of the opioid epidemic and the secrets of the Sackler family who made billions from the powerful drug OxyContin.

    In 2023, a six-part dramatic series based on Meier’s book became a huge hit on Netflix and was viewed during its first five weeks by an estimated 30 million people worldwide. The show starred Matthew Broderick as Richard Sackler and Uzo Aduba as a government investigator whose character was based in part on Meier’s experience uncovering the biggest drug scandal of our time.

    Pain Killer, which was first published in 2003, is now celebrated as a landmark work of investigative reporting. In the book, Meier chronicled how a little-known drug maker, Purdue Pharma, turned OxyContin into a billion-dollar blockbuster by launching the biggest marketing campaign ever untaken for a powerful and potentially-addicting narcotic, a campaign that was based on a lie. He also told the story of how the Sacklers, a family whose name adorned museums worldwide, transformed how prescription drugs are advertised and sold by co-opting the medical profession.

    For three decades, Meier reported for The New York Times on the intersection of business, medicine, and the law, uncovering stories that have changed government policies, medical practice and corporate behavior. Along with OxyContin, his work exposed other dangerous drugs and medical products, including a defective heart device that was killing patients and a generation of flawed artificial hips.

    His extensive reporting about the use and abuse of prescription painkillers such as OxyContin illuminate his talks about how the opioid crisis started and how we can help solve it. Woven into his talks is a personal tale about the two decade-long journey he took from Pain Killer’s initial publication to seeing it become a Netflix series, one filled with unexpected twists, setbacks and, ultimately, vindication.

    Meier’s talks strike themes that appeal to a wide variety of professional audiences including medical and legal groups. He has spoken in academic settings about the art and craft of narrative non-fiction writing and how award-winning investigations can be transformed into books and films.

    In addition to Pain Killer, he is also the author of Missing Man, a riveting narrative about an FBI agent turned private investigator who disappeared in Iran, and Spooked, which investigated the private investigations industry and its impact on our lives. 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.

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  • 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 Pain Killer

    This is the book that started it all. Barry Meier is a heroic reporter and Pain Killer is a muckraking classic.

    Patrick Radden Keefe, author of Empire of Pain

    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

    Praise for Missing Man

    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

    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
  • Books by Barry Meier

  • Media About Barry Meier

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