In 2012, the deadliest meningitis outbreak in United States history infected more than 700 people and killed 64. The condition stemmed from the administration of steroids contaminated with fungus. On January 9, a trial began in which the head pharmacist of the pharmaceutical company which manufactured and distributed the drug, Barry Cadden, is charged with 25 counts of second-degree murder.
New England Compounding Center (NECC), located in Framingham, Massachusetts, produced a shipment of 18,000 contaminated, preservative-free vials of the steroid methylprednisolone, a drug used to reduce inflammation in a variety of conditions. The steroid was injected into hundreds of patients’ spines, causing meningitis, a condition in which the spinal cord and brain membranes become inflamed.
The problem surfaced in the fall of 2012 when the first cases of fungal meningitis were reported. The NECC then voluntarily recalled three batches of the steroid, but the next month the FDA, working with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, reported that the regulatory agencies had “identified serious deficiencies and significant violations of pharmacy law and regulations that clearly placed the public’s health at risk.”
The lawsuit claims that Cadden did not comply with safety regulations by knowingly using expired or expiring ingredients, and “failed and caused others to fail to properly sterilize drugs.” In addition, he allegedly encouraged his sales staff to lie about the drug production process and assert that the company used the highest quality components. Glenn A. Chin, NECC’s supervisory pharmacist, is charged with similar offenses, but his trial is set to start at a later date.
The US Justice Department in 2014 stated that the murder charges do “not require the government to prove Cadden and Chin had specific intent to kill the 25 patients, but rather that (they) acted with extreme indifference to human life.” If convicted, both Cadden and Chin will face the maximum sentence of life in prison.
Although in 2013 NECC agreed to dedicate a fund of $100 million for victims of the outbreak, hundreds of victims are still living with the adverse long-term consequences of meningitis and fear of relapse. According to a report published in the New England Journal of Medicine, “patients remains uncertain. Although many case patients have completed antifungal therapy and their conditions are currently stable or improved, relapses of infection are possible.”
Many of the affected individuals are still waiting to receive any compensation from the settlement. One of the victims, speaking to public radio, told reporters, “Justice needs to be done here. Tremendous harm was done to a great many people, and that should not be forgotten.”
Pharmaceutical companies are charged with the vitally important task of producing safe, effective, and honest products, which is why they are regulated. If you or someone you love has experienced the devastating effects of pharmaceutical negligence, you may be entitled to compensation, even if the company is already facing criminal charges. Call the offices of trial attorneys Charles Gilman and Briggs Bedigian today at (800) 529-6162 or contact them online. The firm handles cases in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C.
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