Feds File Murder Charges in Fungal Meningitis Outbreak
NBC News | December 17, 2014
The owners and senior officers of a Massachusetts pharmacy that distributed contaminated drugs that killed 64 people have been arrested and two were charged with second degree murder.
Barry Cadden, owner and head pharmacist at the New England Compounding Center (NECC), and other top staffers not only knew their products weren't sterile, but they conspired to cover it up, the U.S. Justice Department says in the indictment.
They also instructed staff to make up fake names and prescriptions to make it look as if the operation was a small-time compounding pharmacy, making up drugs to individual order, rather than the large-scale manufacturing operation that it actually was.
The products sent all over the country by NECC made more than 700 people very ill in 2012 and killed 64 of them from a hard-to-treat fungal infection of the spinal cord. They'd been sold as especially safe and carefully formulated steroid injections for pain. What they actually were, federal officials say, were carelessly prepared and unsanitary bottles filled with mold and bacteria.
In total, 14 people were charged in the indictment. Cadden and supervisory pharmacist Glenn Chin were charged with murder. Twelve others were charged with racketeering, mail fraud, conspiracy and other crimes.
"Actions like the ones alleged in this case display not only a reckless disregard for health and safety regulations, but also an extreme and appalling indifference to human life," U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
The 131-count indictment names 14 employees or directors of NECC, including owners, officers, pharmacists and pharmacy technicians. Eleven of them have been arrested, Justice officials said during a news conference.