Lawyers trade blame in meningitis outbreak trial

Barry Cadden is charged with causing the deaths of 25 people

FILE - In this Dec. 19, 2014, file photo, Barry Cadden leaves the federal courthouse in Boston after a hearing. Opening statements are scheduled Monday, Jan. 9, 2017, in the trial of Cadden. Cadden is a former top executive and head pharmacist of New England Compounding Center, blamed for a national meningitis outbreak that killed dozens of people in 2012. (AP Photo/Stephan Savoia, File)

BOSTON (AP) — The former president of a compounding pharmacy blamed for a deadly meningitis outbreak in 2012 put “profits over patients” and ignored repeated warning signs that drugs manufactured by his company were being contaminated by mold, a prosecutor told jurors Monday in a federal racketeering trial.

Barry Cadden, the former head pharmacist at the now-closed New England Compounding Center in Framingham, is charged with causing the deaths of 25 people who died after getting injectable steroids, mainly for back pain, from their doctors.

Compounding pharmacies mix customized medications for patients in the strength and dosage they require.

Assistant U.S. Attorney George Varghese told the jury the government would prove that Cadden oversaw the operations of the center and was responsible for making sure industry rules for sterility and cleanliness were followed in the manufacture of the steroids.

Varghese said 17,600 bottles contaminated by mold were shipped to 23 different states in the fall of 2012. A total of 64 people died, many from fungal meningitis, and more than 700 were sickened by the tainted steroids. Varghese said the contaminated drugs caused the “largest public health crisis in this country ever by a pharmaceutical drug.”

“It’s a story of greed, cutting corners and fraud,” Varghese said.

Cadden is charged with 25 counts of second-degree murder under racketeering law and dozens of other felonies. He has pleaded not guilty.

Cadden’s lawyer, Bruce Singal, told the jury that Cadden oversaw the company’s operations, but was not one of the people who worked in the so-called “clean rooms” or mixed the drugs. Regulators found numerous cleanliness and sterility violations while inspecting the clean rooms.

“He is not a murderer and he is not responsible for their deaths,” Singal said.

Singal said prosecutors are trying to blame Cadden for mistakes made by other employees — including pharmacists and technicians — of New England Compounding Center. He showed the jury emails Cadden sent to a company hired to do extra cleaning of NECC’s clean room, reprimanding the company for not following sterility guidelines.

“He cannot be held responsible for all the corporate wrongs,” Singal said.

Varghese told the jury that Cadden showed a “shocking disregard” for the lives of patients.

“He was making millions of dollars off this, but he couldn’t be bothered to do it right,” Varghese said.

The trial is expected to last several months. Glenn Chin, the former head pharmacist is scheduled to go on trial after Cadden. He faces similar charges.

___

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s