September 19, 2017 / 3:52 PM / a year ago

Massachusetts pharmacist faces trial over 2012 meningitis outbreak

BOSTON, Sept 19 (Reuters) - A Massachusetts pharmacist is due in court on Tuesday to face trial on charges including murder stemming from his role in a 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that sickened hundreds of people and killed 76 across the United States.

Prosecutors contend that Glenn Chin, a former supervisory pharmacist at the now-defunct New England Compounding Center oversaw the production of steroids in unsanitary conditions, leading to the deadly outbreak.

Chin, 49, was charged in 2014 in Boston federal court with second-degree murder under a racketeering law along with Barry Cadden, a co-founder and former president of Framingham, Massachusetts-based NECC.

Cadden was sentenced in June to nine years in prison after he was found guilty of racketeering and fraud charges but cleared of murder.

Chin, who has pleaded not guilty, faces up to life in prison if convicted of murder. His lawyer, Stephen Weymouth, has argued that Cadden was more responsible for the problems at NECC.

“The second-degree murder racketeering acts are not supported by the evidence and are being used by the prosecutors to turn the jury against my client based on emotion rather than facts,” Weymouth said in a statement.

Prosecutors say that 778 people nationwide were sickened after being injected with contaminated steroids produced in unsanitary conditions at NECC, which filed for bankruptcy in 2012.

The outbreak led Congress in 2013 to pass a law that aimed to clarify the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s ability to oversee large compounding pharmacies which make custom drugs.

Chin began working at NECC in 2004 and was promoted in 2010 to a position in which he oversaw all aspects of production in NECC’s two so-called clean rooms, where drugs including the steroid injections were made, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors said Chin acted with extreme recklessness, causing the deaths of 25 people who were injected with tainted drugs made under his watch in insanitary conditions using unsafe and substandard production.

Lesser charges were filed against 12 other people. 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 Scott Malone and W Simon)

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