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Fourteen people are facing federal criminal charges after a 2012 meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people nationwide.
Those indicted include the co-founders, pharmacists, and pharmacy technicians of the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Massachusetts, reports The Associated Press. They are accused of failing to follow proper safety standards, and in some cases, acting with "wanton and willful disregard" of the possible risks posed by allowing drugs to become tainted with mold and bacteria.
Contaminated steroids from NECC caused more than 750 people in 20 states to become ill, some with a rare form of meningitis.
Charges Include 2nd-Degree Murder
The most serious charges in the indictments are second-degree murder charges against NECC co-founder Barry Cadden and Glenn Adam Chin, the head pharmacist at NECC. Second degree murder generally includes homicides caused by dangerous conduct with a lack of concern for human life, sometimes called "depraved indifference."
Cadden and Chin are accused of prioritizing profit and production over safety at the facility, which a federal prosecutor characterized as "filthy." Pharmacists at the facility allegedly failed to test drugs for contamination before shipping them to hospitals and clinics where they were given to patients.
Chin was arrested earlier this year attempting to board a flight to Hong Kong. At the time he was only charged with one count of mail fraud, but now both he and Cadden face possible life sentences if convicted of second-degree murder.
Earlier this year, attorneys for hundreds of plaintiffs involved in a consolidated lawsuit against the company reached a $100 million proposed settlement with the company, which filed for bankruptcy following the outbreak. That figure was recently raised to $135 million, reports the Detroit Free Press, although the settlement must be approved by a federal bankruptcy judge.
Twelve of the 14 defendants indicted yesterday were released on bail. Chin and Cadden were ordered held pending a bail hearing.