I'm Barry Meier and for two decades I've chronicled for The New York Times how opioid abuse has ravaged America. Ask me anything.
On this week’s episode of The Times’s new TV show, “The Weekly,” I reported on a confidential government document, hidden for more than a decade, that had the potential to change the trajectory of the opioid epidemic. The document, known as a “prosecution memo,” details how government lawyers believed that the maker of the powerful opioid OxyContin knew early on that the drug was fueling a rise in abuse and addiction. They also gathered evidence indicating that the company’s executives had misled the public and Congress. The company, Purdue Pharma, denied there was a cover-up, and has said that its executives did not learn of problems with OxyContin until 2000.
Over the past two decades, more than 200,000 people have died in the United States from overdoses involving prescription opioids. States and cities continue to file a wave of lawsuits against Purdue Pharma and other opioid manufacturers and distributors. In 2018 I reported on evidence indicating that the company’s executives knew about the drug’s growing abuse much earlier than they said.
About me: I covered business, public policy, health and safety for nearly 30 years for The New York Times. I began covering the overzealous marketing of the painkiller OxyContin and the resulting epidemic of opioid addiction in 2001. I wrote “Pain Killer: An Empire of Deceit and the Origin of America's Opioid Epidemic,” first published in 2003 and recently reissued.
EDIT 1:06 pm: Thanks very much for all of these questions. I'm logging off now, but I'll try to check back in later and respond to more if I can. Barry.