By Walter F. Roche Jr.
BOSTON, Mass--Charging that the former part owner of a now defunct drug company was playing a game of Russian Roulette with the lives of unsuspecting patients, federal prosecutors today asked a 12 member jury to convict him on charges of racketeering and 25 counts of second degree murder.
The final arguments in the case of Barry Cadden, 50, lasted several hours and came at the end of testimony in a trial that is approaching the three month mark.
Cadden was the president and pharmacist in charge at the New England Compounding Center, which has been blamed for a deadly 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that sickened 778 patients in 20 states, killing 77 of them.
Cadden's lawyer, Bruce Singal, told the jurors that while the outbreak was a horrible tragedy, federal investigators were never able to point to a single act Cadden performed to cause the outbreak.
"Barry Cadden didn't murder any of those people. It is not a murder case," Singal said, calling the murder charges prosecutorial overreach.
Following some 90 minutes of instructions by U.S. District Judge Richard G. Stearns, the jurors met briefly in an organizational session and will begin formal deliberations at 8 a.m. tomorrow.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Strachan said that Cadden ignored multiple warning signs that things at the Framingham, Mass. company were "going off the rail" and that he showed a willful disregard for the patients being injected with NECC drugs.
"He deliberately broke the rules. He knew those drugs could kill," Strachan said. "He ignored the red flashing lights."
Using Cadden's own words from his emails and videotaped sales training sessions, Strachan said that NECC's own data showed multiple sterility problems requiring remediation in 37 out of 38 weeks in NECC's final year of operation.
She charged that under Cadden's leadership and direction NECC compounded drugs beyond their use date sending outdated and mislabeled products to health facilities in New York, Illinois and Nevada. Despite mold being found in clean rooms for compounding sterile drugs, Strachan said Cadden did nothing.
Despite promising physicians and hospitals that its drugs were prepared under strict sterility standards, Strachan said that was just one of many false promises by NECC.
"He didn't follow the rules. He knew people could die," Strachan said. "That is murder in the second degree."
Noting a series of last minute Cadden emails about tests not being performed, Strachan said,"He waited for people to die to do something."
Assistant U.S. Attorney George Varghese said Cadden was "playing a game of Russian Roulette... spinning the cylinder and pulling the trigger" by sending out vial after vial of drugs without promised testing.
"It was inevitable," he said of the deadly outbreak.
Singal argued that NECC had shipped out 859,125 vials of similar steroids between 2006 and 2012 without any problems and Cadden had no reason to expect otherwise.
He charged that prosecutors played on the emotions of jurors by eliciting testimony about the deaths of victims and introducing extraneous evidence. As part of that effort Singal said prosecutors presented evidence of issues that weren't even contested.
"The basic core of a murder charge is that the defendant did something," Singal said, yet prosecutors were unable to identify a single act that Cadden committed that led to the outbreak.
"Barry Cadden did nothing to cause these people to die."
As he has throughout the trial Singal pointed the blame on codefendant Glenn Chin, who was a supervisory pharmacist.
"It was Glenn Chin who was in charge of the clean room," Singal said, referring to the room where the deadly vials of methylprednisolone acetate were prepared.
Chin, who is facing identical second degree murder charges is expected to go on trial when Cadden's case is completed.