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Pharmacist linked to fungal meningitis outbreak gets 9 years in prison

Pharmacist Barry Cadden was sentenced to nine years in prison Monday after his facility caused at least 76 deaths in a 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak.

In March, Cadden, 50, owner and head pharmacist of the New England Compounding Center, was convicted of more than 50 counts of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud and introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud and mislead.

The US Attorney’s Office for Massachusetts said Cadden authorized the shipping of drugs that weren’t confirmed to be sterile and used expired ingredients. It added that Cadden’s facility did not comply with cleaning, sterilization and other safety regulations — and that many who worked there, from its owners to pharmacists, actively lied about it.

More than 700 people in 20 states were diagnosed with fungal meningitis and other infections after receiving contaminated medication from Cadden’s facility in 2012. The outbreak was the largest public health crisis caused by a pharmaceutical product, according to a statement from acting United States Attorney William D. Weinreb.

In a filing on June 22, the prosecution placed the number of deaths caused by Cadden at 76, making it the deadliest meningitis outbreak in US history. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had officially announced 64 deaths, but “they stopped counting a year after the outbreak,” said Christina Sterling, acting US Attorney spokeswoman.

The deaths were allegedly caused by contaminated vials of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate, a steroid manufactured by the compounding pharmacy.

Though Cadden was acquitted of 25 counts of second-degree murder after a 10-week trial, federal prosecutors asked the judge for a 35-year sentence for his other convictions; his attorney recommended three years.

“Today, Barry Cadden was held responsible for one of the worst public health crises in this country’s history, and the lives of those impacted because of his greed will never be the same,” said Harold H. Shaw, FBI special agent in charge, Boston Field Division, in a statement. “This deadly outbreak was truly a life-changing event for hundreds of victims, and the FBI is grateful to have played a role, alongside our law enforcement partners, in bringing this man to justice.”

Judge Richard Stearns sentenced the pharmacist to nine years behind bars and three years of supervised release.

“The only thing I would say is our thoughts and prayers are with the victims of the outbreak at this time, and I have nothing more to say,” Cadden’s attorney Bruce Singal told CNN.