Barry Cadden, co-owner of New England Compounding Center (NECC), was convicted of criminal racketeering but acquitted of murder for causing the largest outbreak of fungal meningitis in history.
The jury found him guilty of racketeering with mail fraud. Lawyers say he made tens of millions of dollars by illegally running his pharmacy like a large-scale pharmaceutical manufacturer.
The jury was split on the final decision, but in the end, murder charges were too much. Lawyers for Cadden said prosecutors couldn’t prove he “probably” knew the drugs were going to kill anyone because no one knew how the drugs were contaminated — not even Cadden.
State laws for 2nd-degree murder are all essentially variations on “acting knowingly with an extreme disregard for human life.”
Alfred Rye, 77, of Maybee, Michigan, was one of hundreds of people in 20 states who became ill after getting a contaminated injection from NECC 4½ years ago. He said he continues to suffer from side effects, and told reporters upon hearing the verdict:
I wish I could give him the same shot he gave me. I think they should pay for their crime. Life has been totally hell.”
Cadden did not mix the injections himself, but 64 people died because his business model was built on breaking laws that protect human life. The Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy also ignored complaints about NECC illegally selling drugs across state lines just before the outbreak.
Cadden co-founded NECC in 1998 with his brother-in-law, Greg Conigliaro, shortly after Congress handed off FDA oversight of the compounding industry to state pharmacy boards.
Compounding pharmacies are essentially modern-day apothecaries where pharmacists customize medications for individual prescriptions — for example, turning a pill into a liquid for a patient who can’t swallow.
Cadden was NECC’s head pharmacist. Under his direction, NECC sold long-expired cancer drugs for children, shipped “sterile” drugs before sterility test results were in, and ignored positive results. His emails mention finding bugs, oil, pubic hair, and mice in the pharmacy clean room.
He also reassured doctors who complained about particulate matter floating in vials of methylprednisolone acetate, the same spinal shot that would later cause a deadly outbreak of fungal meningitis.
The problems were nothing new. In 2002, a man in New York died of bacterial meningitis after a receiving a spinal shot from NECC. Cadden himself stonewalled the FDA inspectors who showed up at his doorstep.
That doorstep was an old industrial warehouse in Framingham, Massachusetts, the same building where NECC co-owner Greg Conigliaro ran a trash recycling business. They had a huge trash fire in 2009 and numerous complaints from neighbors about dust and smells.
Despite these serious ongoing issues, Cadden accelerated pharmaceutical mass-production by faking prescriptions for “Big Baby Jesus” and “Donald Trump.” NECC quickly became the largest compounding pharmacy in the United States, with profits skyrocketing in the final years leading up to the outbreak.