Pharmacist Acquitted of Murder in 2012 Meningitis Outbreak

Prosecutors said Glenn Chin failed to properly sterilize the drugs and instructed his staff to use expired ingredients and ignore cleaning

A Massachusetts pharmacist charged in a deadly meningitis outbreak has been cleared of murder in the 2012 meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people.

A Boston jury on Wednesday found Glenn Chin not guilty of second-degree murder but convicted him on mail fraud and racketeering charges.

Chin was the supervisory pharmacist at the now-closed New England Compounding Center in Framingham, where he oversaw the rooms where the drugs were made.

The outbreak of fungal meningitis and other infections was blamed on contaminated injections of medical steroids, given mostly to people with back pain.

Prosecutors said Chin failed to properly sterilize the drugs and instructed his staff to use expired ingredients and ignore cleaning. In a statement after the verdict, the prosecution said, "As a licensed pharmacist, Mr. Chin took an oath to protect patients, but instead deliberately violated safety regulations, causing the largest public health crisis caused by a pharmaceutical drug in U.S. history."

Chin's attorneys argued that he was not responsible for the deaths. They said prosecutors did not show that he caused the drugs to become contaminated.

"He's remorseful for what happened. He doesn't feel personally responsible because he didn't commit murder," one of Chin's attorneys said.

Chin was one of more than a dozen employees charged following the outbreak.

Barry Cadden, NECC's owner and chief pharmacist, was found guilty of fraud and racketeering charges earlier this year, but not guilty of second-degree murder. He tearfully apologized to victims as he was sentenced in June to nine years in prison. 

Besides the 64 people who died, more than 700 were sickened. Illnesses and deaths in 20 states were traced to the contaminated steroids. 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.

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

Chin will appear for court for sentencing on Jan. 30, and faces up to 20 years in prison. 

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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