Owner of compounding pharmacy indicted for 25 acts of second-degree murder over meningitis cases

Fourteen people have been arrested and two of them have been charged with second-degree murder related to a 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak, authorities announced Wednesday.

The outbreak was traced to a New England compounding pharmacy where unsanitary conditions prevailed, causing long-term care and other providers to be concerned about drugs originating from this type of facility. The government has taken steps to more strictly regulate compounding pharmacies.

The owner and the supervisory pharmacist of the New England Compounding Center have been charged with 25 acts of second-degree murder. The two men acted with “extreme indifference to human life,” because they knew that dangerous conditions existed at the compounding pharmacy and yet they shipped out medications regardless, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.

A lawyer for the supervisory pharmacist says that his client feels “hugely remorseful” and did not mean to cause people harm, CBS News reported. The second-degree murder charge is “an overreach,” the lawyer said.

The full indictment includes 131 counts against the 14 people formerly associated with NECC, which declared bankruptcy after the outbreak occurred. They stand accused of crimes including racketeering, mail fraud, conspiracy and Food and Drug Act violations, such as using false names or the names of celebrities on fake prescriptions used to dispense drugs.

The two men facing murder charges — Barry J. Cadden and Glenn A. Chin —  could receive life in prison if convicted, according to the DOJ.

In total, 64 people in nine states died in the meningitis outbreak, and more than 750 people were diagnosed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.