Pharmacy head to be sentenced in deadly meningitis outbreak

Barry Cadden, president of the New England Compounding Center, followed by members of his legal team, arrive at the federal courthouse for sentencing Monday, June 26, 2017, in Boston. A verdict of guilty on charges of mail fraud, racketeering conspiracy and racketeering had been reached on Wednesday, March 22, 2017 in the case of a fungal meningitis outbreak from tainted steroids manufactured by Cadden's pharmacy which killed dozens and sickened hundreds of people in 2012. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)

BOSTON (AP) — The co-founder of a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy is set to be sentenced Monday in a nationwide meningitis outbreak that killed more than 60 people and sickened hundreds more.

Barry Cadden, 50, was acquitted of second-degree murder charges under federal racketeering law but convicted on conspiracy and fraud charges.

Cadden was charged in connection with a 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that was traced to contaminated injections of medical steroids made by the New England Compounding Center in Framingham.

Prosecutors say Cadden ran the center in a dangerous way by skirting industry regulations on sterility in an effort to push production and make more money.

Prosecutors will ask the judge to sentence him to 35 years in prison. Cadden’s lawyer says he should get 2½ to 3 years.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Strachan told the judge on Monday that the center was “a massive reckless and fraudulent organization.” She said 20 victims who were sickened and relatives of people who died will give victim impact statements before Cadden is sentenced.

The outbreak of fungal meningitis and other infections in 20 states was traced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to contaminated injections of medical steroids, given mostly to people with back pain.

The CDC put the death toll at 64 as of October 2013. Federal prosecutors say 12 more people have died since then, raising the total to 76. More than 700 people were sickened. Indiana, Michigan and Tennessee were hit hardest.

The scandal prompted increased scrutiny on compounding pharmacies, which differ from ordinary drugstores in that they custom-mix medications and supply them directly to hospitals and doctors. In 2013, in reaction to the outbreak, Congress increased federal oversight of such pharmacies.

Federal prosecutor Amanda Strachan told the jury during the two-month trial that the deaths and illnesses happened because Cadden “decided to put profits before patients.”

NECC used expired ingredients and falsified logs to make it look as if the so-called clean rooms had been disinfected, prosecutors said. After the outbreak, regulators found multiple potential sources of contamination, including standing water and mold and bacteria in the air and on workers’ gloved fingertips.

Cadden’s lawyer, Bruce Singal, told the jury Cadden was not responsible for the deaths and pointed the finger at Glenn Chin, a supervisory pharmacist who ran the clean rooms where drugs were made. Chin has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go on trial in September.

NECC filed for bankruptcy after getting hit with hundreds of lawsuits. NECC and several related companies reached a $200 million settlement with victims and their families.