Pharmacist at drug compounder NECC convicted, but not of murder

The co-owner of New England Compounding Center, whose contaminated drugs caused a fungal meningitis outbreak that killed more than 60 people, has been convicted of dozens of federal charges but acquitted of murder.

A jury in Boston convicted Barry J. Cadden of more than 50 counts of mail fraud for his part in peddling unsterile drugs that led to a national outbreak of fungal meningitis in 2012 that infected more than 750 patients and killed 60. Sentencing was set for June, the Boston Globe reported.

Cadden was chief pharmacist as well as an owner of the now-defunct drug compounding business, whose contaminated steroids were injected into people’s spines. While a majority of jurors voted to convict the 50-year-old Cadden of 23 of the 25 murder charges filed against him, a unanimous decision couldn’t be reached, probably sparing Cadden a life sentence, the newspaper reports.

Authorities found unsterile conditions in the area where the contaminated steroids implicated in the outbreak had been manufactured. 

The outbreak shined a spotlight on the rapid growth of the drug compounding industry, from small local pharmacy operations to large companies mass-producing drugs and using national sales forces to market them. The public outcry over the episode led to passage of the Drug Quality and Security Act, which gives the FDA new, but limited, powers to oversee compounding pharmacies that volunteer to be regulated.

Fourteen people were indicted in the case, but only Cadden and supervisory pharmacist Glenn A. Chin were charged with murder. Chin, who also pleaded not guilty, has yet to be tried. Last year, NECC majority shareholders Carla Conigliaro and her husband Douglas pleaded guilty to related charges for trying to hide $33 million in assets after the pharmacy went into bankruptcy and a court ordered all assets frozen.