Pharmacist's 'deadly' choices sparked U.S. meningitis outbreak: prosecutors

BOSTON (Reuters) - A federal prosecutor told jurors on Friday that a Massachusetts pharmacist gambled with patients’ lives by making drugs in unsafe ways that led to a deadly 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak, but a defense lawyer said he was no murderer.

FILE PHOTO: FILE PHOTO: Former New England Compounding Center supervisory pharmacist Glenn Chin enters the federal court in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S., September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Nate Raymond/File Photo

Glenn Chin, a former supervisory pharmacist at New England Compounding Center, made drugs in filthy conditions, producing mold-tainted steroids in the process, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Strachan told a federal jury in Boston in her closing argument.

Those steroids were shipped out to healthcare facilities nationally and then injected into patients, leading to an outbreak that sickened 778 people, including 76 people who died, prosecutors have said.

“Make no mistake, Glenn Chin is not sitting in this court room because he was negligent or careless,” Strachan said. “He is here because of his deliberate choices.”

Strachan said Chin directed “massive corner cutting” in Framingham, Massachusetts-based NECC’s so-called clean rooms where the drugs were made, prioritizing production over cleaning and failing to properly test or sterilize drugs.

“His choices had deadly consequences,” she said.

Defense lawyer Stephen Weymouth countered that Chin, 49, never meant for anyone to die and that prosecutors lacked proof to convict him of 25 acts of second-degree murder he was accused of under a racketeering law.

“It is a horribly tragic death case, but it’s not a murder case,” Weymouth said.

He said blame instead rested with Barry Cadden, NECC’s co-founder and former president. Weymouth said Cadden made all of the decisions and trained Chin on how to produce sterile drugs in the ways that prosecutors contend were unsafe.

“Glenn Chin did not have anything to do with this,” Weymouth said. “This was really, always, Barry Cadden, always.”

Cadden, 50, was sentenced in June to nine years in prison after he was found guilty of racketeering and fraud charges but cleared of murder. Strachan agreed Cadden was at fault but said that does not mean Chin is innocent.

“The individuals who carry out crimes at their boss’s behest are just as guilty,” she said.

Chin has pleaded not guilty to charges including racketeering and mail fraud. He faces up to life in prison if he is convicted of second-degree murder.

Lesser charges were filed against 12 other people involved with the now-defunct NECC. Three have pleaded guilty, while a federal judge dismissed charges against two defendants in October 2016. Charges remain pending against the other seven.

Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Andrew Hay