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A pharmacist has been arrested in connection with the meningitis-tainted steroid scandal which killed at least 64 people in 2012.
Authorities caught Glenn Adam Chin, 46, at Boston's Logan International Airport, where he was about to board a flight to Hong Kong. According to The New York Times, Chin was charged with one count of mail fraud, but his attorney believes that the sudden arrest was an attempt to generate publicity for the case.
What do federal prosecutors have to link Chin to these tainted steroids?
New England Compounding Center and Tainted Steroids
Although this may have been the first in many arrests made in this tainted steroid case, it certainly isn't the first legal move. As early as October 2012, patients who had been infected with meningitis from a contaminated steroid shot -- produced by New England Compounding Center (NECC) in Framingham, Massachusetts -- have sued over their injuries (or over their loved ones' deaths in some cases.)
The Times reports that Chin is the head pharmacist at NECC, and that his arrest signals the beginning of public criminal proceedings against the company. Perhaps the first known fruits of the federal government's criminal investigation was the criminal complaint against Chin, charging him with fraudulently labeling tainted drugs as "injectable" and shipping them to Michigan -- where 15 patients died from fungal meningitis.
Mail fraud charges in this case aren't particularly well tailored to the allegations against Chin; federal law harshly punishes anyone who tries to commit fraud via the USPS. The charges don't appear to take into account the dozens who died because of the tainted drugs distributed by Chin's employer, but perhaps the threat of 20 years in federal prison is enough.
Criminal Case May Open Door to Civil Liability
Although there are already many civil cases pending against NECC and its employees, depending on the outcome of Chin's federal case, there may be even more. And these may be directed at Chin himself. According to the Times, Chin is accused by federal prosecutors of instructing pharmacy techs to "mislabel medication to indicate it was properly sterilized and tested."
If a jury finds that these allegations are true by way of a criminal conviction, it will be that much easier for someone affected by NECC's meningitis-laden steroids to prove Chin was negligent or even reckless.