First Criminal Trial Starts in Fatal Meningitis Outbreak

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Some 750 people nationwide were sickened by fungal meningitis attributed to tainted steroid injections made by a Massachusetts pharmacy in 2012. Seventy-six people died in the outbreak, said the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Now, after a lengthy federal probe and two years of legal battling, victims are anxiously watching as the first pharmacy executive goes to trial on criminal charges, The Tennessean reports. Facing a jury in Boston is Barry Cadden, director of the New England Compounding Center, who is charged with 25 counts of second-degree murder connected to deaths in seven states. He and 13 other company executives and pharmacists were indicted in 2014.

Opening statements are scheduled to begin today. Federal prosecutors say Cadden and other pharmacy executives did not follow regulation and procedure in preparing the medicine methylprednisolone acetate, leading to 10,000 tainted doses. Michigan was hardest hit by the outbreak, with 264 illnesses and 19 deaths. Tennessee was the second-hardest hit state, with 153 illnesses and 16 deaths. Among the violations alleged by prosecutors that led to that toll: using expired ingredients, failing to sterilize the medicine and ignoring indications there was mold in the rooms where medicines were made. Prosecutors say the pharmacy executives knew the potential consequence of those actions was death. “This is the deadliest catastrophe in the history of modern medicine,” said Mark Chalos, a Nashville lawyer who has represented victims.

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