The trial of a pharmacist charged with second-degree murder in a 2012 nationwide outbreak of meningitis has begun.
Glenn A. Chin, former supervisory pharmacist of New England Compounding Center (NECC), was charged in December 2014 with 25 acts of second-degree murder and could face a maximum sentence of life in prison if convicted on all counts, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.
Chin’s defense attorney Stephen Weymouth told Infectious Disease News that “the government does not have sufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Glenn Chin committed 25 murders.”
Chin and 13 other individuals associated with NECC were indicted after a 2-year investigation linked hundreds of illnesses and dozens of deaths to the facility. According to the CDC, 753 patients in 20 states were diagnosed with a fungal infection after receiving injections of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate (MPA) manufactured by NECC. A CDC representative told Infectious Disease News that 64 patients in nine states had died.
“The outbreak was the largest public health crisis ever caused by a pharmaceutical product,” a U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts press release published in June said.
Barry Cadden, the owner and head pharmacist of NECC, was also charged with 25 acts of second-degree murder under federal racketeering law. He was acquitted of these charges in March after a 9-week trial but convicted of conspiracy and fraud. In June, Cadden was sentenced to 108 months in prison and 3 years of supervised release.
The December 2014 indictment alleged that Cadden and Chin were aware that NECC was producing MPA “in a manner and in an environment in which they could not assure that the drug was sterile as it was identified to be,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts.
“Despite knowing that they were making the MPA in an unsafe manner and in insanitary conditions, Cadden and Chin nonetheless allegedly directed and authorized the shipping of MPA to NECC customers nationwide,” a press release said. “It is alleged that Cadden and Chin were aware that doctors would inject MPA into their patients’ bodies, and that if the MPA was not in fact sterile, it could kill them.”
The indictment further claimed that NECC employees did not properly sterilize and test the sterility of drugs and failed to act after environmental monitoring repeatedly detected mold and bacteria within the facility throughout 2012. It also said that NECC shielded operations from regulatory FDA oversight.
“Since this tragedy, Congress has given the FDA important new authorities, and the agency has implemented key policies, all to provide a greater assurance of safety over compounded medicines,” FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, said in the release. “As part of these efforts, we will continue to hold accountable those who violate the law and put patients at risk.”
Weymouth said he expects Chin’s trial will last 4 to 5 weeks. – by Stephanie Viguers
Disclosures: Gottlieb reports no relevant financial disclosures. Infectious Disease News was unable to confirm other relevant financial disclosures at the time of publication.