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U.S. Officials Arrest Pharmacist Tied to Deadly 2012 Meningitis Outbreak

Tainted methylprednisolone killed 64 people

U.S. officials have arrested a pharmacist linked to a 2012 outbreak of meningitis that killed 64 people in the U.S. as he was boarding a flight to Hong Kong, according to a report from Reuters.

Glenn Chin, 46, had been a supervising pharmacist at the now-defunct New England Compounding Center (NECC), located in Framingham, Massachusetts. The center produced tainted steroids that sickened 700 people in 20 states in the worst outbreak of fungal meningitis recorded in the U.S., officials said.

Chin has been charged with mail fraud in connection with shipping 17,000 tainted vials, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston. The contaminated vials were sent to more than 76 facilities in 23 states. The steroid, methylprednisolone acetate, typically was injected into patients to ease back pain.

U.S. prosecutors said they became concerned Chin was a flight risk when he bought tickets for a flight to Hong Kong.

Chin is the first person to face criminal charges related to the outbreak, which forced NECC into bankruptcy and led to stricter national regulation of custom medication makers. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

Authorities accused Chin of instructing pharmacy technicians to mislabel the medication to indicate that it was properly sterilized and tested. Medications compounded by NECC were prepared, filled, and held under unsanitary conditions, according to an affidavit from the FDA.

Source: Reuters; September 4, 2014.

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