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Massachusetts Pharmacy Execs Face Murder Charges for Meningitis Deaths

Defendants responsible for ‘unprecedented national tragedy,’ U.S. Attorney says

Fourteen people have been charged in the case of a Framingham, Massachusetts, compounding pharmacy that has been blamed for sending across the country tainted drugs that killed dozens of people, federal prosecutors have announced.

The defendants linked to the now-shuttered New England Compounding Center, most of whom were arrested in a series of predawn raids, are slated to make their initial appearances December 17 in U.S. District Court in Boston, officials said.

The defendants face a 131-count indictment, including charges of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, introducing adulterated drugs into national commerce, criminal contempt, and mail fraud. The indictment also includes allegations that two company officials were responsible for the second-degree murder of 25 patients.

U.S. Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz said at a news conference that the case was an “unprecedented national tragedy” that affected more than 750 people in 20 different states and killed at least 64 people.

“Production and profit were prioritized over safety,” she said, describing the company as having “filthy conditions” and its labs as “thoroughly contaminated.”

Barry Cadden, a founder and owner of the company, who also acted as its head pharmacist, and Glenn A. Chin, the supervising pharmacist who oversaw all aspects of production, face 25 allegations of second-degree murder of patients, in Michigan, Tennessee, Louisiana, Indiana, Maryland, Virginia, Florida, and North Carolina.

Chin has already faced a federal mail fraud indictment. He was arraigned in federal court in Boston in September after being arrested several days earlier at Logan International Airport as he and his family were preparing to board a flight to Hong Kong. His lawyer said Chin was not trying to flee the country but was traveling with his family for a vacation.

Gregory A. Conigliaro, another founder and owner of the company, also faces charges. In the indictment, federal prosecutors alleged that he, along with Cadden, deliberately misled federal drug regulators since at least 1989 by falsely identifying the company only as a compounding pharmacy, not as a drug manufacturer.

“We are a small-scale, family-run compounding-only pharmacy,’’ Conigliaro wrote to the FDA in 2004, according to the indictment. “As such we are not subject to GMP.’’ GMP is an acronym for “good manufacturing practices,’’ which are standards set by the FDA.

Conigliaro and Cadden also allegedly conspired to direct employees to falsify records. To operate as a compounding pharmacy rather than as a manufacturer, the company needed names of specific patients. So company officials allegedly instructed workers to create fake patient names. In June 2012, after consulting with Cadden, Conigliaro ordered staff to create 300 fraudulent prescriptions for patients at one Massachusetts hospital, the indictment alleged.

Earlier this month, a proposal filed in federal bankruptcy court called for at least $135 million to be distributed to people who have brought personal injury or death claims against the pharmacy.

Source: Boston Globe; December 17, 2014.

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