The former co-owner of the New England Compounding Center, the pharmaceutical company at the center of a meningitis outbreak in 2012, has been found not guilty on the most serious charges in that trial but convicted of other charges.
Barry Cadden was charged with murder, racketeering and fraud in relation to the 2012 nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people and sickened nearly 700.
A Boston federal jury today found Cadden not guilty of second degree murder, and guilty on more than 50 other lesser counts.
"It is a disgrace he was charged with murder," said Cadden's attorney Bruce Singal after the verdict was handed down. "It was unprovable, unwarranted and unjustified and we are deeply grateful that the jury saw it that way."
U.S. Attorney William Weintraub said he grateful to the jury, despite the not guilty verdicts on murder, and believes that Cadden is being held accountable.
"The tainted drugs distributed under Mr. Cadden's watch caused the the largest public health crisis ever by a pharmaceutical drug," said Weintraub. "Mr. Cadden knew he was running his business dishonestly but he kept doing it that way to make sure that the money kept rolling in."
We look at the verdict, hear from one of the victims of the contaminated medication, and examine whether gaps that allowed the outbreak to occur have been closed.
Adam Ziegler, Army major who got a steroid injection at a clinic in Tennessee which was mixed by NECC and contained a fungus.
Kevin Outterson, professor at Boston University Law School where he co-directs the health law program. Former member of a special Massachusetts commission to investigate compounding pharmacies following the 2012 outbreak. He tweets @koutterson.
Interview Highlights With Adam Ziegler
On his reaction to the verdict
"I'm glad that some kind of verdict has finally come. This has been a long road for everybody that's been involved. You know, as a victim, it's been over four years since this all started. It's going to be a long road and it's just good to see something finally come out of it."
On if he feels like justice has been done
"I guess that justice has been done. You know, it's been through the legal system and this is what the folks who had to sit on the jury have decided.
As far as whether if anyone's ever going to be made whole in this, or whether if he'd have been found guilty of 25 counts of second degree murder, if it would make me feel any better, it really wouldn't matter. He's going to be punished and all the rest of us are still going to have to go on with our lives, as wherever we are, either without somebody or dealing with whatever pain or injury we have for the rest of our lives."
On how the tainted injection affected him
"What I have is bad enough, I am getting medically separated from the military ... Even sitting is kind of rough. There's no comfortable way to sit. I can't run anymore. I can't even pick up my daughter — she's not quite 2 years old — and carry her around for very long.
On what he’s doing next
"I'm not sure and it depends on what the military does with me. You can do anything from just separate me to actually some type of retirement … I'm trying to figure out what I can do with what I've been dealt here. You know I'm blessed that I'm alive and I'm not in a wheelchair or worse. And so I'm just trying to work with what I've got."
Interview Highlights With Kevin Outterson
On why there was inadequate oversight at the federal level
"If a drug company is making [a drug], it goes through every process that the FDA has. But [the FDA] treats, historically, compounding pharmacies, as if it's the pharmacist around the corner who gets out his mortar and pestle and makes up an oral version of a normal drug for one of his regular customers ... But for this case, this was a company that took that idea ... and turned it into a national business."
On if this problem could happen again
"It certainly could happen again ... The injectable steroid that was at issue in this case, if they had made it the normal way, it would have been regulated by the FDA. But they deliberately made it without the preservative, and that enabled them to say that the population this is going to be used for, were people who were allergic to the preservatives. That was the regulatory theory that made this 'compounding' as opposed to 'drug manufacturing.' Ironically, that's a disaster, because the steroid had fungal contamination and a preservative might have saved the lives of all these people that had been either killed or damaged."
On why there was inadequate oversight at the state level
"None of the victims were in Massachusetts. So Massachusetts did a fine job protecting local residents. But these drugs were shipped to Michigan and into Tennessee … And so it's hard for the Tennessee Board of Pharmacy to regulate this operation in central Massachusetts — same with the people from Michigan and same for the people from any other state. It's the sort of thing that calls out for national regulation instead of state by state."
On legislation passed since then to fix the gaps
"Immediately after the outbreak, Congress held hearings. I remember very clearly the officials from Massachusetts went and actually apologized and said we're going to do better. The Commonwealth of Massachusetts has done better.
But Congress had a bill and the original version of the bill would have closed this loophole. The part that was passed, The Drug Quality and Security Act, left it up to the compounding pharmacies to decide whether or not they would be regulated by the FDA. It was the compromise that came out."
On how many compounding pharmacies have opted in to federal regulation
"Actually, a number have. And they're able to say when they sell to hospitals nationwide now, we're selling you a compound a drug that's regulated by the FDA. It's a sticker of quality assurance. But there still remains hundreds of compounding pharmacies who have not been regulated, who have not volunteered to be regulated by the FDA."
This segment aired on March 22, 2017.