(DEBRA CASSENS WEISS) A federal indictment unsealed Wednesday accuses two pharmacists of second-degree murder in a 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that killed at least 64 people and injured about 750 others.
U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz announced the 131-count indictment Wednesday against the pharmacists and 12 other people associated with the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts, report Reuters, the Atlantic, USA Today and the Boston Globe. A press release is here.
Prosecutors say the outbreak was caused by contaminated steroids produced in unsafe conditions and shipped across the country by NECC. Compounding pharmacies like NECC are licensed to mix custom medications for hospitals and doctors.
The indictment alleges violations of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act and claims 25 predicate acts of second-degree murder by the two pharmacists, NECC co-founder Barry Cadden, 48, and supervising pharmacist Glenn Chinn, 46. Those charges claim the pharmacists acted with extreme indifference to human life and relate to 25 patients who died in seven states.
“Production and profit were prioritized over safety,” Ortiz said at a Boston press conference. Senior pharmacists were aware of “filthy conditions” in labs that were “thoroughly contaminated,” she alleged.
The RICO charges alleged that NECC acted with a related company to form a criminal enterprise that obtained money through materially false premises.