The former executive of a Massachusetts pharmacy company is now facing up to 35 years in prison for his role in an outbreak of meningitis, which led to the deaths of more than 60 patients and the sickening of hundreds more in 2012.

Former New England Compounding Center president and co-founder Barry Cadden was found guilty by a federal jury in Boston in March in relation to the 2012 nationwide meningitis outbreak. He was convicted of racketeering and fraud but was able to beat charges of second-degree murder.

Cadden is set to appear again in court on Monday, June 26, to receive sentencing, which could amount to at least 35 years in prison.

2012 U.S. Meningitis Outbreak

In September 2012, hundreds of people in different states were stricken with meningitis after receiving steroid shots contaminated with fungal infections. According to prosecutors, the incident sickened some 778 individuals and killed 76.

Investigators traced the contaminated steroid injections to the NECC, which was based in Framingham, Massachusetts. They found that the compounding pharmacy was in direct violation of its state license because it had been operating as a drug manufacturer, producing various drugs for broad use instead of filling individual prescriptions.

In 2014, Cadden and 13 other NECC employees were indicted following the deadly meningitis outbreak. The NECC head was one of only two people charged with second-degree murder for the incident.

Prosecutors pointed out that as the head pharmacist of the NECC, Cadden ran the pharmacy company as a criminal enterprise that sold substandard drugs. Many of the products that they shipped to medical facilities in the United States were produced in unsanitary conditions, resulting in contaminations.

Despite being aware of the unsafe conditions in which the steroids were made, Cadden still pushed through with the shipment of some 17,000 vials of the product, the prosecutors said. This led to the meningitis outbreak.

However, Cadden's lawyers argued that the prosecutors' insistence that the pharmacy head knew about the contamination was just a way to demonize him. They said Cadden was convicted of misrepresenting how the steroids were made and not of knowing about the contamination.

"As the jury found, Mr. Cadden is not a murderer. Nor is he the person the government portrayed him as at trial," Bruce Singal, one of Cadden's attorneys, said.

Singal and his fellow defense lawyers seek to lower the number of prison years for Cadden, from the 35 years insisted upon by the prosecution to about three years.

The NECC case focused the public's attention on how such pharmacy companies operate. Unlike ordinary drug stores, compounding pharmacies are allowed to custom-mix drugs and supply them to doctors and hospitals directly.

Following the 2012 meningitis outbreak, Congress moved to increase its federal oversight of such compounding pharmacies. U.S. Rep. Fred Upton from Michigan filed the Drug Quality and Security Act in response to the incident. The bill was designed to give the Food and Drug Administration more authority in regulating and monitoring the production of compounded drugs. It was officially signed into law by President Barack Obama in November 2013.

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