Jurors serving on the trial of six former employees of the New England Compounding Center were scheduled to return to federal court on Dec. 10, after failing to reach a verdict the previous week. The NECC has been blamed for a 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak—thought to have been caused by improper cleanroom practices—that killed over five dozen people and sickened hundreds nationwide.
Near the conclusion of the eight-week federal trial, a former chief medical officer in Boston, Dr. Sunil Eappen, testified that he had not been the one to issue an eye-numbing drug (which didn’t contain the required amount of lidocaine and therefore caused patients pain during eye surgery) that the NECC had provided to a state board—even though the prescription listed Eappen’s name.
Eappen also stated that there were about 300 fake prescriptions whose labels listed patients from the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, but the patients never received the drugs. One such falsified prescription was listed as having been prescribed by a plastic surgeon, who would not be the kind of doctor to prescribe such a drug.
An FDA microbiologist who testified in late November said that the NECC turned off the cleanroom’s air conditioner at night, resulting in “out of control” temperature spikes and heightened humidity—which can encourage bacteria and mold growth.
Another FDA microbiologist testified that he had “never seen” the level of contamination he discovered when testing vials of methylprednisolone from the NECC in fall 2012. Defense attorneys countered that only 11 of 41 environmental samples collected from the NECC tested positive for bacterial or fungal contamination, and not all of those were from the cleanroom but rather adjacent areas of the facility.
A pharmaceutical consultant retained by federal prosecutors also stated that NECC pharmacists had removed drugs from the autoclave way before sterility standards dictated they should be removed … in some cases, he said, drugs only spent 10 minutes in the autoclave when they were supposed to be in there for 40.
The six defendants are facing charges of mail fraud, racketeering, and conspiracy. Former NECC president and co-founder Barry Cadden, as well as former NECC cleanroom supervisor Glenn Chin, were each tried for second-degree murder in 2017. Each was cleared of murder charges but convicted of mail fraud and racketeering charges. Cadden was sentenced to nine years in prison and Chin received an eight-year sentence.