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Pharmacy boss sentenced to 9 years for deadly meningitis outbreak

By Andrew V. Pestano

June 27 (UPI) -- The U.S. Department of Justice said a federal judge issued a nine-year sentence to New England Compounding Center owner and head pharmacist Barry Cadden for his role in a fungal meningitis outbreak that killed 76 people in 2012.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns sentenced Cadden, 50, of Wrentham, Mass., to 108 months in prison and an additional three years of supervised release. Stearns also ordered Cadden to forfeit assets and pay restitution, which will be determined later.

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Cadden was convicted in March by a federal jury of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud and introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud and mislead.

"Barry Cadden put profits over patients," Massachusetts Acting U.S. Attorney William D. Weinreb said in a statement. "He used NECC to perpetrate a massive fraud that harmed hundreds of people. Mr. Cadden knew that he was running his business dishonestly, but he kept doing it anyway to make sure the payments kept rolling in. Now he will have to pay for his crimes."

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The Justice Department said 753 patients in 20 states were diagnosed with a fungal infection in 2012 after receiving injections manufactured by Cadden's NECC. The injection was preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate, or MPA, which is used to treat pain and swelling.

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The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said that of the 753 patients infected, 64 died. The Justice Department, however, said the outbreak caused 76 deaths because the CDC stopped counting related deaths a year after the initial outbreak.

"The outbreak was the largest public health crisis ever caused by a pharmaceutical product," the Justice Department said. "Cadden directed and authorized the shipping of contaminated MPA to NECC customers nationwide. In addition, he authorized the shipping of drugs before test results confirming their sterility were returned, never notified customers of nonsterile results, and compounded drugs with expired ingredients."

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