Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Meningitis Outbreak Death Toll Jumps to 76

By Walter F. Roche Jr.

The death toll in a 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak jumped by 12 to a total of 76, according to a massive filing in the criminal case against those blamed for the outbreak.
The new death toll numbers were included in an affidavit filed by federal agents to justify the seizure of additional assets from the owners of the New England Compounding Center, the now defunct firm blamed for the outbreak.
According to the filing, the number of victims of the outbreak continued to climb even after officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped updating the case count.
According to the affidavit the number of patients sickened also continued upward reaching 778, 27 higher than the last CDC count of 751.
"The CDC stopped updating its official count as of Oct. 31, 2013," Joseph Ridgley, a special agent for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, wrote in one court filed affidavit.
"This investigation, however, revealed that the total number of infected patients increased and is approximately 778, of which 76 have died," he continued.
The new numbers were included in filings made by federal officials to justify the seizure of $18.3 million in assets held by NECC founder and stockholder Barry Cadden and co-owners Lisa and Douglas Conigliaro.
All three were named in a 131-count indictment handed up by a federal grand jury in Boston last month.
The three and 11 others - all owners or employees of NECC- were indicted on charges ranging from second degree murder to mail fraud. They all have entered not guilty pleas. No trial date has been set.
The affidavits totaling 128-pages, which were unsealed this week, detail how Cadden and the Conigliaros paid themselves millions of dollars which had been paid to NECC to provide a fungus tainted spinal steroid injected into the spines and joints of unsuspecting victims.
The 25 counts of second degree murder were lodged against Cadden, who was the chief pharmacist for NECC, and Glenn Chin, a supervisory pharmacist for the Framingham, Mass drug compounding firm.
Under the seizure order assets totaling $1.5 million were seized from Cadden while $16.8 million was seized from Douglas and Lisa Conigliaro.
The Conigliaros were charged in the indictment with violating a bankruptcy court order that had placed a freeze on the $16.8 million.
The owners of NECC already had agreed to contribute nearly $50 million to a $136 million fund to compensate victims of the outbreak. It was not immediately clear how much if any of the additional $18.3 million would be allotted to the victims' fund.
The victims' fund was created as part of the proposed settlement of NECC's bankruptcy case and is subject to approval by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Henry Boroff.

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