Pharmacists indicted over meningitis outbreak

Employees of a New England compounding pharmacy face criminal charges over a deadly 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that infected hundreds of patients. 

Indictments unsealed Wednesday accuse two pharmacists with second-degree murder in connection to contaminated medication that killed 64 of the 751 patients who were infected.

Twelve other pharmacists who participated in the plan were indicted on lesser charges, according to federal prosecutors.

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Announcing the charges, Attorney General Eric HolderEric Himpton HolderObamas discuss pandemic, voting, anxiety and community in new podcast Joy Reid debut delivers 2.6 million viewers for MSNBC The Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by Facebook — Republicans rejigger summer convention plans MORE accused the pharmacists of “grievous wrongdoing” and an “extreme and appalling indifference to human life.”

“As alleged in the indictment, these employees knew they were producing their medication in an unsafe manner and in insanitary conditions, and authorized it to be shipped out anyway, with fatal results,” Holder said.

“American consumers have a right to know that their medications are safe to use,” he added.

The problems originated from the New England Compounding Center in Boston.

The owner of the pharmacy, Barry Cadden, and head pharmacist Glenn Chin face up to life in prison if convicted, according to federal prosecutors.

The other pharmacists charged with causing the meningitis outbreak include Gene Svirskiy, Christopher Leary, Joseph Evanosky, Scott Connolly, Sharon Carter, Alla Stepanets, Gregory Conigliaro, Robert Ronzio, Kathy Chin, Michelle Thomas, Carla Conigliaro, and Douglas Conigliaro.

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Federal prosecutors are not charging the pharmacists with intentionally contaminating the medication but rather with reckless disregard for health regulations that led to the outbreak.

According to prosecutors, the pharmacists failed to sterilize the drugs properly and detected mold and bacteria in the facility where the drugs were made but did nothing to clean it.

The nationwide meningitis outbreak was most severe in Michigan, but it also affected patients in states including Florida, Indiana, Maryland, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia, according to prosecutors.