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Pharmacy Owner Acquitted Of Murder In Meningitis Outbreak That Caused 64 Deaths

Barry Cadden, center, an owner of the New England Compounding Center, was acquitted of 25 counts of second-degree murder of people who received tainted steroids manufactured by the pharmacy. He was found guilty of racketeering and mail fraud. Here, Cadden is shown arriving at the federal courthouse last week.
Steven Senne
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

The owner of a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy was acquitted on 25 counts of second-degree murder, but guilty of racketeering and fraud in the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people and hurt more than 700.

A jury found Barry Cadden, an owner of the now-defunct New England Compounding Center, guilty of some of the charges, but decided against holding him directly responsible for the deaths, which could have resulted in a life sentence for Cadden.

As Gabrielle Emanuel of member station WGBH reports, Cadden sat looking straight ahead and showed little emontion while the verdict was read.

"The government did not seek to prove Cadden intended to murder the patients with his drugs. Instead, they argued that he'd demonstrated an extreme indifference to human life. ... Federal prosecutors also argued that Cadden tried to avoid regulators through a complex scheme involving fake prescriptions. He wanted to make it look like his compounding pharmacy was filling individual prescriptions, prosecutors alleged. That way, they would be overseen by state regulators, whom Cadden knew to be overburdened."

The outbreak began in the summer of 2012, when 14,000 contaminated vials were sent around the country. According to The Boston Globe,

"Cadden was also convicted of more than 50 counts of mail fraud. He was acquitted of defrauding the US Food and Drug Administration and various other charges by a jury composed of nine women and three men after deliberations that lasted about 20 hours. ... 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."

Cadden's lawyers had conceded that the outbreak was caused by steroids manufactured at NECC, but they said that murder charges weren't warranted, arguing that Cadden didn't act intentionally or know the drugs would kill people, reports the Associated Press.

Bruce Singal, Cadden's defense attorney, said that Cadden will appeal his conviction of racketeering and fraud.

"It was unprovable, unwarranted and unjustified," said Singal, according to the AP.

In January, Lynn Jolicoeur of member station WBUR interviewed a number of victims of the contaminated steroids about their lives since being infected.

Cadden's sentencing was set for June 21. He'll remain free on bail until then.

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Laurel Wamsley is a reporter for NPR's News Desk. She reports breaking news for NPR's digital coverage, newscasts, and news magazines, as well as occasional features. She was also the lead reporter for NPR's coverage of the 2019 Women's World Cup in France.