NECC Co-Owner Convicted in Meningitis Outbreak
Barry Cadden arrived at the federal courthouse in Boston last week.

NECC Co-Owner Barry Cadden Convicted in Meningitis Outbreak

The former co-owner of a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy was convicted Wednesday of racketeering and other charges in the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that killed more than 60 people and sickened hundreds more nationwide.


A jury in federal court in Boston found Barry J. Cadden guilty of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, and more than 50 counts of mail fraud for his actions at the New England Compounding Center, which was at the epicenter of one of the worst public health crises in American history.

But the jury refused to hold Cadden responsible for 25 deaths allegedly caused by the tainted medicine shipped by the facility. That difference could spare Cadden — who faced 25 second-degree murder charges in the deaths — from a life sentence.

Cadden was acquitted of various other charges, including defrauding the US Food and Drug Administration, by a jury composed of nine women and three men after deliberations that lasted about 20 hours.

Cadden’s lead defense attorney, Bruce Singal, thanked the jury for their verdicts and denounced federal prosecutors for bringing the murder charges.

“Murder is the worse crime known to humanity, and it’s a terrible injustice that Barry Cadden was labeled with this charge. … It was unprovable, unwarranted, and unjustified,’’ said Singal. “And we are deeply grateful that the jury saw it that way and vindicated Mr. Cadden on all 25 of the murder charges.’’

Singal quickly added that while he was on trial, Cadden’s thoughts remained with the families of the people who died or who were sickened by the drugs.

“Barry’s thoughts and prayers remained with them throughout,’’ Singal said.

As the verdict was announced in court from a 21-page verdict slip, Cadden sat up straight and stockstill in his chair. US District Judge Richard G. Stearns set June 21 for sentencing. He allowed Cadden to remain free until then.

The trial had lasted more than nine weeks, and featured more than 60 witnesses.

Investigators had traced the source of the outbreak to batches of a steroid that had been contaminated with fungus during production at the New England Compounding Center facility in Framingham, about 20 miles west of Boston.

A majority of jurors sided with prosecutors and voted to find Cadden responsible for 23 out of the 25 deaths authorities linked to the tainted drugs, but the jury could not reach the necessary unanimity to rule him responsible.

In two cases — the deaths of Godwin Mitchel in Florida and Elwina Shaw in North Carolina — the jury unanimously found that Cadden was not responsible, the verdict slip shows.

The murder allegations were part of the racketeering charge against Cadden. He was convicted of racketeering anyway because of fraud counts contained in the charge.

Cadden was the first person to go to trial on charges directly related to the outbreak. Authorities say Cadden, who was also the company’s chief pharmacist, was so reckless and bent on profits that he skirted industry regulations and ran a shoddy workplace. That recklessness led to the contamination of the drugs.

Authorities alleged during the trial that Cadden should have known that the drugs could be contaminated, and that the drugs posed risks of serious illness and even death.

Cadden, according to federal prosecutors, was told that a clean room at the facility was infested with bugs and mice and that oil had spilled on the floor. Tests confirmed the existence of mold. But he did nothing.

Instead, Cadden proceeded with the dangerous process of compounding sterile drugs, including steroids, prosecutors said.

The defense argued that NECC had built a spotless safety record since 2006, the year that prosecutors alleged Cadden’s conspiracy began. In that time, the company had distributed more than 859,000 vials of four high-risk steroids without incident.

Cadden’s lawyers did not contest that some batches of steroids had been contaminated with mold. But they argued to jurors that prosecutors had failed to show exactly how they were contaminated, what Cadden did to contaminate them, and how he caused the deaths.

Cadden, 50, of Wrentham, faced 100 counts. Prosecutors said he was responsible for at least 25 deaths in seven states.

A compounding pharmacy is a facility where multiple medicines are combined, mixed, or altered to create a medication tailored to the needs of individual patients, the FDA says.

In the summer of 2012, three batches of a steroid used to treat back pain were contaminated with a fungus, and more than 14,000 vials were distributed across the country.

Doctors started to report that patients were getting sick from a mysterious illness. The illness was not identified until September 2012, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined there was a fungal meningitis outbreak. Investigators ultimately followed a trail of evidence back to NECC.

Cadden’s lead defense attorney, Bruce Singal, thanked the jury for their verdicts and denounced federal prosecutors for bringing the murder charges.

“Murder is the worse crime known to humanity, and it’s a terrible injustice that Barry Cadden was labeled with this charge. … It was unprovable, unwarranted, and unjustified,’’ said Singal. “And we are deeply grateful that the jury saw it that way and vindicated Mr. Cadden on all 25 of the murder charges.’’

Singal quickly added that while he was on trial, Cadden’s thoughts remained with the families of the people who died or who were sickened by the drugs.

“Barry’s thoughts and prayers remained with them throughout,’’ Singal said.

As the verdict was announced in court from a 21-page verdict slip, Cadden sat up straight and stockstill in his chair. US District Judge Richard G. Stearns set June 21 for sentencing. He allowed Cadden to remain free until then.

The trial had lasted more than nine weeks, and featured more than 60 witnesses.

Investigators had traced the source of the outbreak to batches of a steroid that had been contaminated with fungus during production at the New England Compounding Center facility in Framingham, about 20 miles west of Boston.

A majority of jurors sided with prosecutors and voted to find Cadden responsible for 23 out of the 25 deaths authorities linked to the tainted drugs, but the jury could not reach the necessary unanimity to rule him responsible.

In two cases — the deaths of Godwin Mitchel in Florida and Elwina Shaw in North Carolina — the jury unanimously found that Cadden was not responsible, the verdict slip shows.

The murder allegations were part of the racketeering charge against Cadden. He was convicted of racketeering anyway because of fraud counts contained in the charge.

Cadden was the first person to go to trial on charges directly related to the outbreak. Authorities say Cadden, who was also the company’s chief pharmacist, was so reckless and bent on profits that he skirted industry regulations and ran a shoddy workplace. That recklessness led to the contamination of the drugs.

Authorities alleged during the trial that Cadden should have known that the drugs could be contaminated, and that the drugs posed risks of serious illness and even death.

Cadden, according to federal prosecutors, was told that a clean room at the facility was infested with bugs and mice and that oil had spilled on the floor. Tests confirmed the existence of mold. But he did nothing.

Instead, Cadden proceeded with the dangerous process of compounding sterile drugs, including steroids, prosecutors said.

The defense argued that NECC had built a spotless safety record since 2006, the year that prosecutors alleged Cadden’s conspiracy began. In that time, the company had distributed more than 859,000 vials of four high-risk steroids without incident.

Cadden’s lawyers did not contest that some batches of steroids had been contaminated with mold. But they argued to jurors that prosecutors had failed to show exactly how they were contaminated, what Cadden did to contaminate them, and how he caused the deaths.

Cadden, 50, of Wrentham, faced 100 counts. Prosecutors said he was responsible for at least 25 deaths in seven states.

A compounding pharmacy is a facility where multiple medicines are combined, mixed, or altered to create a medication tailored to the needs of individual patients, the FDA says.

In the summer of 2012, three batches of a steroid used to treat back pain were contaminated with a fungus, and more than 14,000 vials were distributed across the country.

Doctors started to report that patients were getting sick from a mysterious illness. The illness was not identified until September 2012, when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention determined there was a fungal meningitis outbreak. Investigators ultimately followed a trail of evidence back to NECC.

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