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First person arrested for fungal meningitis outbreak pleads not guilty

Sep 11, 2014

The first person arrested for sending tainted drugs to doctors, causing the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak, pleaded not guilty today.

The fungal meningitis outbreak hit Michigan especially hard.
Credit Center for Disease Contorl / http://www.cdc.gov/hai/outbreaks/meningitis-facilities-map.html

Glenn Adam Chin is a Massachusetts pharmacist who supervised so-called “clean rooms” at the New England Compounding Center.

He’s being charged with one count of mail fraud, which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison, according to reports.

Chin’s employer, the New England Compounding Center, was supposed to be tailoring medications for individual patients whose doctors sent in a valid prescription.

Many compounding centers are mom-and-pop shops that do just that, removing ingredients that someone might be allergic to, or changing medications into cream form, etc.   

But the NECC was selling and shipping medicines to more than 12,000 customers in all 50 states, according to an affidavit from the Food and Drug Administration's Office of Criminal Investigations.

That included several practices in Michigan.

The New England Compounding Center didn’t properly clean or test its medications, which resulted in a massive national outbreak of fungal meningitis.

“Internal testing revealed the presence of … bacteria and mold … on a weekly basis”

According to the FDA, Chin knew that the medications NECC was sending out weren’t safe, but he told staff to label them as “injectable” anyway.

“Chin instructed pharmacy technicians to fraudulently complete cleaning logs at the end of each month, purporting to show the rooms were properly cleaned and maintained when in fact they had not been,” the FDA’s affidavit reads.

“NECC’s own internal environmental testing revealed the repeated presence of microbial isolates – bacteria and mold – within NECC’s clean rooms on a weekly basis in 2012.

The affidavit goes on to allege that Chin directed vials of steroid pain medicines, usually used for back pain, be sent out of the clean room to the Michigan Pain Specialists PLLS in Brighton.

Michigan Pain Specialist physicians injected the drugs into 625 patients over the next two months; 215 of those patients were sickened with fungal meningitis and 15 of them died.

Is this guy the only one who’s going to be arrested?

Chin’s attorney told The Boston Globe today that he’s worried Chin is being used as a scapegoat by the federal government.

The New England Compounding Center is now bankrupt, but its founders and insurers have settled a $100 million lawsuit with victims and survivors around the country.

Still, many families want more than just financial justice.

“I don’t even care about the lawsuit,” Anita Baxter told Michigan Radio in 2012. Her mother, Karina Baxter, died of a stroke related to fungal meningitis.

“These people are murderers. They need to go to jail, not lose their money.”