Trial begins for pharmacist tied to fatal meningitis outbreak

The trial of a pharmacist tied to a fatal meningitis outbreak has begun. The pharmacist worked at a compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts that was blamed for a national meningitis outbreak in 2012.

Dozens of people lost their lives and hundreds more were sickened during the national outbreak. Prior to the trial, a $200 million settlement was reached for creditors and victims of the outbreak.

The outbreak was caused by tainted steroid injections supplied by the New England Compounding Center, which is now defunct. The outbreak killed 64 and sickened more than 750 people across 20 states.

The outbreak caused half of the victims to develop a rare fungal meningitis, while the rest suffered from spinal or joint infections. Tennessee was one of the hardest-hit states during the outbreak. The steroid was supposed to help patients who suffered from chronic pain.

An investigation by "60 minutes" back in 2013 found that the New England Compounding Center was producing mass quantities of the steroid without approval from the Food and Drug Administration. The center should have been preparing the steroids as individual prescriptions. A whistleblower said that mold was found in the "clean room," which was supposed to be sterile.

The whistleblower reportedly brought concerns about the drug manufacturing process to management at the center prior to the first death from the steroid. The whistleblower claims that nothing was done and the response to his concern was a simple shrug.

The center previously blamed the cleaning company it hired as the reason for the contaminated steroids distributed.

The pharmacist on trial is facing 25 counts of murder under the government's federal racketeering laws. The pharmacist is also the co-founder of the center, which was based in Framingham. He is free on bail and pleaded not guilty to the charges. He claims that the government is overreaching by charging him with murder in this case.

Some of those affected by the contaminated steroids are still dealing with health issues today. An attorney can help those who have not sought compensation for their damages and losses learn more about their legal options.

Source: WDEF, "Pharmacist heads to trial over fatal meningitis outbreak," Christine Reuille, Jan. 02, 2017

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