Prosecutors seek pharmacist's conviction over U.S. meningitis outbreak

BOSTON (Reuters) - A federal prosecutor on Friday told jurors that a Massachusetts pharmacist, charged with murder for his role in a deadly 2012 U.S. meningitis outbreak, acted with a "depraved heart" while knowingly producing non-sterile drugs.

Glenn Chin, a former supervisory pharmacist at New England Compounding Center, produced drugs in filthy conditions, including mold-tainted steroids, Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Strachan told a federal jury in Boston in her closing argument.

Those steroids were shipped out to healthcare facilities nationally and then injected into patients, leading to an outbreak that sickened 778 people nationally, including 76 people who died, prosecutors have said.

"Make no mistake, Glenn Chin is not sitting in this court room because he was negligent or careless," Strachan said. "He is here because of his deliberate choices."

She said that Chin, 49, recklessly failed to ensure the compounding pharmacy's drugs were produced in sanitary conditions in order to keep up with demand from hospitals for its products.

Strachan said Chin directed "massive corner cutting" in NECC's so-called clean rooms where the drugs were made, prioritizing production over cleaning and failing to properly test drugs.

"Glenn Chin acted with a depraved heart," she said.

Chin has pleaded not guilty to charges including racketeering and mail fraud. He faces up to life in prison if he is convicted of second-degree murder charges brought under racketeering law.

Defense lawyers, who will present their own closing arguments later on Friday, say Chin did nothing to kill the 25 people who are the subject of those murder allegations, and that blame instead lies with Barry Cadden, NECC's co-founder and former president.

They say Cadden directed the corner-cutting at NECC, and note that at his trial earlier this year, prosecutors said people died because Cadden decided to put profits before patient safety.

Strachan told jurors prosecutors do not disagree that Cadden was at fault. But she said that does not mean Chin is innocent.

"There's no such thing as a conspiracy of one," she said. "And the individuals who carry out crimes at their boss's behest are just as guilty."

Cadden was sentenced in June to nine years in prison after he was found guilty of racketeering and fraud charges but cleared of murder.

Lesser charges were filed against 12 other people. Three have pleaded guilty, while a federal judge dismissed charges against two defendants in October 2016. Charges remain pending against the other seven.

(Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Scott Malone and Bernadette Baum)

10/20/2017 10:12

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