March 24, 2017

Pharmacy owner not guilty of murder in deadly meningitis outbreak

Daily Briefing

    A federal jury on Wednesday acquitted a pharmacist of 25 second-degree murder charges stemming from his ties to a deadly meningitis outbreak that was caused by tainted steroids, but convicted him on other charges related to the outbreak.

    Tainted steroids linked to meningitis outbreak

    A national meningitis outbreak in 2012 was linked to tainted steroid injections made by the now-closed New England Compounding Center (NECC). An estimated 14,000 people received the tainted injections, resulting in more than 700 illnesses and dozens of deaths. The outbreak resulted in new federal and state laws to strengthen regulations on compounding pharmacies.

    Fourteen former NECC employees have faced federal racketeering charges stemming from the outbreak. In addition, federal officials charged a former NECC co-owner and the company's head pharmacist, Barry Cadden, as well as another pharmacist who worked at NECC, with murder and other charges.

    Jury acquits pharmacist of murder, but convicts on other charges

    The federal jury acquitted Cadden of second-degree murder. However, the jury convicted Cadden on charges of racketeering, mail fraud, and other crimes. Those convictions were based on allegations that Cadden had overseen the manufacturing and shipping of drugs that had not been properly tested but still were labeled as sterile, and as a result profited from defrauding patients and customers, the Wall Street Journal reports. Cadden's sentencing for those crimes is scheduled for June 21.

    Bruce Singal, Cadden's attorney, praised the jury's not guilty verdict on the second-degree murder charges but said he plans to contest the jury's guilty verdicts on the other charges, either via appeal or trial court.

    Acting U.S. Attorney William Weinreb expressed disappointment that Cadden was acquitted of the murder charges, which carried a possible life prison sentence. According to the New York Times, Cadden faces a prison sentence of up to 20 years for each of the 52 counts of mail fraud of which he was convicted (Loftus, Wall Street Journal, 3/22; AP/Modern Healthcare, 3/22; Raymond, Reuters, 3/22; Bidgood, New York Times, 3/22).

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