BOSTON (AP) — The co-founder of a pharmacy is set to be sentenced Monday in a nationwide meningitis outbreak that killed more than 60 people and sickened hundreds more.
Barry Cadden, 50, was acquitted of second-degree murder charges under federal racketeering law but convicted on conspiracy and fraud charges. The 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak was traced to contaminated injections of medical steroids made by the New England Compounding Center in Framingham.
Prosecutors say Cadden ran the center in a dangerous way by skirting industry regulations on sterility in an effort to push production and make more money. Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Strachan said the center was "a massive reckless and fraudulent organization."
Penny Laperriere, whose husband died after receiving a contaminated steroid shot, told the judge that Cadden destroyed her family.
"Who gave him the right to play God?" the Michigan woman asked during a victim impact statement.
She said her husband, Lyn, received the shot to try to get relief from his back pain. He died in 2012.
Prosecutors will ask the judge to sentence him to 35 years in prison. Cadden's lawyer says he should get 2½ to 3 years.
The outbreak of fungal meningitis and other infections in 20 states was traced by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to contaminated injections of medical steroids, given mostly to people with back pain.
The CDC put the death toll at 64 as of October 2013. Federal prosecutors say 12 more people have died since then, raising the total to 76. More than 700 people were sickened. Indiana, Michigan and Tennessee were hit hardest.
The scandal prompted increased scrutiny on compounding pharmacies, which differ from ordinary drugstores in that they custom-mix medications and supply them directly to hospitals and doctors. In 2013, in reaction to the outbreak, Congress increased federal oversight of such pharmacies.
Federal prosecutor Amanda Strachan told the jury during the two-month trial that the deaths and illnesses happened because Cadden "decided to put profits before patients."
NECC used expired ingredients and falsified logs to make it look as if the so-called clean rooms had been disinfected, prosecutors said. After the outbreak, regulators found multiple potential sources of contamination, including standing water and mold and bacteria in the air and on workers' gloved fingertips.
Cadden's lawyer, Bruce Singal, told the jury Cadden was not responsible for the deaths and pointed the finger at Glenn Chin, a supervisory pharmacist who ran the clean rooms where drugs were made. Chin has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled to go on trial in September.
NECC filed for bankruptcy after getting hit with hundreds of lawsuits. NECC and several related companies reached a $200 million settlement with victims and their families.