A Boston-area pharmacist pleaded not guilty to a charge stemming from the deadly 2012 U.S. meningitis outbreak, a week after he was arrested attempting to board a flight to Hong Kong.
Glenn Chin, who was a supervisor at the now-bankrupt New England Compounding Center, entered his plea today in Boston federal court. He was the first person arrested in connection with the epidemic, which infected 751 people and killed 64.
Chin’s lawyer, Steve Weymouth, said after today’s hearing that he feared prosecutors were intent on making Chin a scapegoat for the failures of others at the defunct company.
“Someone has to be made to pay,” Weymouth said. “I’m not sure Mr. Chin is that person.”
The pharmacy’s tainted drugs, including a pain-killing steroid administered by spinal injection, caused infections in 20 states, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Boston said after Chin’s arrest.
The outbreak led to calls by Congress for greater federal oversight of so-called compounding pharmacies, which provide health-care companies with tailored drug mixtures that aren’t commercially available.
New England Compounding’s facilities were in “deplorable” physical condition when they were probed by state and federal health investigators after the outbreak, according to related complaints against the company filed by victims and families. Authorities found contaminated vials of medicine, dirty surfaces and equipment in supposedly “clean rooms” where medicine was prepared, incorrect room temperatures, leaky boilers and air contaminants, according to court papers.
Authorities detained Chin Sept. 4 at Logan International Airport. He was charged with one count of mail fraud and released by a judge on home confinement and a $50,000 unsecured bond to await today’s hearing. He faces as long as 20 years in prison. He remains confined to his home.
Chin was attempting to travel to a wedding in Hong Kong and held round-trip tickets for himself, his wife, his two children and his mother when he was arrested, said Paul Shaw, his lawyer at the time. Chin’s family went on without him, the lawyer said.
Chin, a supervisor at Framingham, Massachusetts-based New England Compounding, was involved in putting together a batch of contaminated medicine that was later injected into hundreds of patients of one of its customers, Michigan Pain Specialists PLLC, the U.S. said.
The batch that Chin signed off on resulted in 217 infections and 15 deaths, authorities said. He’s named in several lawsuits filed against New England Compounding in Boston federal court.
The company, formally known as New England Compounding Pharmacy Inc., suspended operations and filed for bankruptcy protection in December 2012 as a result of the lawsuits. The company and its insurers last month won court approval of a settlement of almost $100 million.
Shortly before New England Compounding filed its Chapter 11 bankruptcy petition, the company surrendered its Massachusetts pharmacy license, recalled all its products and fired most employees, court records show.
The case is U.S. v. Chin, 14-cr-10260, U.S. District Court, District of Massachusetts (Boston).
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