July 9, 2020 / 10:40 PM / a month ago

Pharmacy execs tied to deadly U.S. meningitis outbreak lose appeals

BOSTON, July 9 (Reuters) - A federal appeals court on Thursday cleared the way for prosecutors to seek higher prison sentences for a founder and supervisory pharmacist of a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy whose tainted drugs sparked a deadly fungal meningitis outbreak in 2012.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston upheld the racketeering and fraud convictions of Barry Cadden, New England Compounding Center’s ex-president, and Glenn Chin, its former supervisory pharmacist.

But the three-judge panel said a trial judge erred in sentencing Cadden and Chin to nine and eight years in prison, respectively, when he declined to apply various federal sentencing guideline enhancements.

U.S. Circuit Judge David Barron said the judge, among other things, wrongly calculated a potential sentence, concluding that only the hospitals that bought NECC’s drugs could legally be their victims, and not the patients who used them.

The ruling was a partial victory for prosecutors, who had sought 35 years in prison for both men. Defense lawyers did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Both men were indicted in 2014 after a fungal meningitis outbreak traced back to mold-tainted steroids that prosecutors say NECC produced in filthy and unsafe conditions that were then shipped to hospitals and clinics nationally.

The outbreak sickened 793 patients nationally, more than 100 of whom have died, according to prosecutors, who pursued second-degree murder charges against Cadden and Chin over 25 of the deaths.

Jurors in separate trials in 2017 acquitted Cadden and Chin of the second-degree murder charges but convicted them of racketeering and fraud over alleged misrepresentations made to NECC’s customers.

Prosecutors argued hospitals would not have bought drugs from Framingham, Massachusetts-based NECC had they known about its quality control issues.

Cadden and Chin also face separate second-degree murder charges in Michigan, which was hit hard by the outbreak. (Reporting by Nate Raymond in Boston)

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