Friday, December 2, 2016
Prosecutors Detail NECC Murder Charge Evidence
By Walter F. Roche Jr.
Two former officials of the New England Compounding Center showed a "wanton and willful disregard for human life" that directly caused the death of 25 victims, federal prosecutors charged in U.S. District Court in Boston, Mass.
In an eight-page filing today, Assistant U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb wrote that the conditions inside NECC's Framingham, Mass. facility were so bad that one public health official called it "a fungal zoo."
Bacteria and multiple forms of fungus were still found by federal inspectors in so-called clean rooms even after an "extraordinary" two-day clean up attempt by NECC staffers and a private contracting firm.
Four types of fungus were found in 150 patients injected with NECC drugs, the prosecutors charged, adding that drugs that were supposed to be sterile were produced with unsterile and expired components.
The filing comes as the two former NECC officials, Barry Cadden and Glen Chin, are just a month away from trial on 25 counts of second degree murder, racketeering and conspiracy. Weinreb urged U.S. District Judge Richard G. Stearns to reject a motion by the two defendants to hold a court hearing to force prosecutors to provide additional evidence to justify the 25 murder counts.
The two were indicted following a federal grand jury probe of the deadly 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak caused by fungus ridden drugs from NECC. Cadden was a part owner and chief pharmacist for NECC and Chin was a supervising pharmacist.
Earlier this week Stearns flatly rejected a request from Chin to delay his trial to early Spring.
Calling the motion for a hearing"a last ditch attempt to avoid judgment by their peers," the prosecution argued that no hearing was necessary and the charges should now go to a jury.
The evidence, the prosecutor stated, "will show that the defendants actions fell so far below the required standards of pharmacy care in producing these drugs that it was unconscionable that the defendants identified these drugs as sterile and dispensed them for use on patients."
In addition to the spinal steroid (methylprednisolone acetate) blamed for the deadly outbreak, prosecutors said federal investigators found 23 other species of fungus in other drugs produced by NECC including betamethasone, triamcinolone and cardioplegia
"This was not an unfortunate unexplainable tragedy, an accident or a mere coincidence as the defendants have stated in their various court filings in this case; this was second degree murder," the filing states.
Cited was a comment made by an NECC supervisor to a worker who had raised questions about the safety of the drugs being produced.
"You don't understand," the supervisor said. "You don't have money. When you have money, you always want more."
The actions by Cadden and Chin were "deliberate and intentional and prioritized profit over patient safety," the filing concludes.