BOSTON — The frightening pattern of #sick #patients emerged in 2012. First, two people died. Then it was eight. Then more. It was an outbreak of fungal meningitis, a rare disease that investigators linked to injections from a #compounding #pharmacy outside Boston.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that some 13,000 people in multiple states could have been injected with the possibly tainted medicine, and recipients waited anxiously to see if they developed symptoms.
In all, 732 people were sickened by the meningitis and other infections. Sixty-four people died. Many survivors live with constant pain.
On Wednesday, the first trial related to the outbreak ended in a split verdict: A jury here convicted Barry J. Cadden, 50, the owner and head pharmacist at the New England Compounding Center, of more than 50 counts of mail fraud and racketeering, but acquitted him of 25 counts of second-degree murder.
The acquittal on the murder charges dismayed some survivors of the outbreak and probably spared Mr. Cadden from a sentence of life in prison. Sentencing was scheduled for June 21; Mr. Cadden will remain free until then.
The acting United States attorney for Massachusetts, William D. Weinreb, said Mr. Cadden was being held accountable for serious crimes, despite the acquittals.
Officials looking into the New England Compounding Center case said investigators had found dirty mats and hoods, a leaky boiler, dark debris floating in vials of medicine, and evidence that the laboratory was not leaving enough time to properly sterilize some products. They also said that a supposedly clean room was infested with insects and mice.
At the time of the outbreak, one of the worst public health crises in the nation’s history, concern was rising over the quality of compounded drugs. Prosecutors said that Mr. Cadden had been told the drugs could have been contaminated, but that he recklessly disregarded industry regulations in pursuit of higher profit.
“This trial revealed that, among other things, Mr. Cadden participated in a massive fraud in which N.E.C.C. masqueraded as a pharmacy when it was in fact manufacturing drugs,” Mr. Weinreb said. “As a result of that, he managed to escape F.D.A. oversight of his actions, and 65 people died. Hundreds of others were injured.”
The defense argued that prosecutors had failed to show how the drugs had been contaminated or to specify any role that Mr. Cadden might have played in the deaths. On Wednesday, Mr. Cadden’s lawyer, Bruce A. Singal, pushed back against Mr. Weinreb’s comments, saying his client had not been convicted of massive fraud.