Mass. pharmacy co-founder faces 25 murder counts in connection with deadly meningitis outbreak
The head of a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy was charged with 25 counts of second-degree murder in connection with a fungal meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people, the New York Times reported.
Both New England Compounding Center (NECC) co-owner and founder Barry J. Cadden and supervisory pharmacist Glenn A. Chin face murder charges related to the 2012 outbreak, which was attributed to tainted steroids the company manufactured and distributed to clinics around the country. More than 700 people in 20 states were affected, making it the worst outbreak of its kind in the U.S.
“Production and profit were prioritized over safety,” U.S. attorney Carmen Ortiz said at a press conference on Wednesday announcing the charges. “Beginning in January 2012, NECC’s environmental sampling, in one of the so-called ‘clean rooms,’ found mold and bacteria in 37 out of 38 weeks.”
Chin was already arrested this past September and accused of telling pharmacy technicians to falsely label medications as being sterilized and tested.
Both Chin and Cadden are being held in jail in advance of a detention hearing on Thursday. Each faces a possible sentence of life in prison. The Justice Department said that its indictment “does not require the government to prove Cadden and Chin had specific intent to kill the 25 patients, but rather that [they] acted with extreme indifference to human life.”
Prosecutors indicted 14 people in connection with the outbreak, including the facility’s other founders, Carla, Douglas, and Gregory Conigliaro. Carla and Douglas Conigliaro were accused of skirting an order from a bankruptcy court freezing the company’s assets by transferring $33 million to eight different bank accounts. Charges against other NECC employees included conspiracy, violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act, and mail fraud.
The outbreak was linked to a contaminated steroid, methylprednisolone acetate, that caused patients to develop fungal meningitis, which can cause the membranes covering the spinal cord and brain to develop inflammation. A former NECC lab technician, Joe Connolly, told CBS News last year that the company increasingly ignored federal safety regulations as it sought to increase productivity.
“The underlying factor is that the company got greedy and overextended,” Connolly said. “And, we got sloppy. Something happened.”
Watch a report on the indictment against NECC, as aired on WCVB-TV on Wednesday, below.