October 20, 2017 / 10:01 AM / a year ago

Trial wraps up for pharmacist in deadly U.S. meningitis outbreak

BOSTON, Oct 20 (Reuters) - Closing arguments are set for Friday in the trial of a Massachusetts pharmacist accused of murder and fraud for his role in a 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that killed 76 people and sickened hundreds more across the United States.

Federal prosecutors in Boston contend that Glenn Chin, a former supervisory pharmacist at New England Compounding Center, cut corners while overseeing the production of drugs the company produced in filthy conditions.

Those drugs included steroids tainted with mold that were shipped out to healthcare facilities nationally and then injected into patients, leading to an outbreak that sickened 778 people nationally, prosecutors said.

They said that Chin, 49, recklessly failed to ensure the compounding pharmacy’s drugs were produced in sanitary conditions to keep up with demand from hospitals for its products.

Prosecutors claim Chin directed staff in NECC’s so-called clean rooms where the drugs were made, to skip cleaning, despite the presence of insects, mice and mold.

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 charges brought under racketeering law.

Defense lawyers counter that Chin did nothing to kill the 25 people who are the subject of those murder allegations and say blame instead lies with Barry Cadden, NECC’s co-founder and former president.

They say that Cadden directed the corner-cutting at NECC, and note that at his trial earlier this year, prosecutors said people died because Cadden decided to put profits before patient safety.

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

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 Bernadette Baum)

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