An owner of a now-defunct Massachusetts pharmacy has been acquitted of 25 accounts of second-degree murder on Wednesday. But, he was found guilty of racketeering and fraud, according to National Public Radio. In 2012, he caused a fungal meningitis outbreak that killed 64 and injured over 700.
The jury found Barry Cadden guilty of some of the charges, but they steered clear of holding him directly responsible for the deaths. According to the reports, if he was found guilty of the second-degree murders, it could have resulted in a life sentence for Cadden. When the verdict was read, Cadden reportedly showed little emotion.
"The government did not seek to prove Cadden intended to murder the patients with his drugs. Instead, they argued that he'd demonstrated an extreme indifference to human life,” the verdict stated. “Federal prosecutors also argued that Cadden tried to avoid regulators through a complex scheme involving fake prescriptions. He wanted to make it look like his compounding pharmacy was filling individual prescriptions, prosecutors alleged. That way, they would be overseen by state regulators, whom Cadden knew to be overburdened."
The deaths, according to CNN, were caused by contaminated vials of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate, which was a steroid manufactured by the Cadden's pharmacy using expired ingredients. According to ABC News, the vials were mostly given as shots to people with back pain. The U.S. Attorney's Office said Cadden authorized the shipping of drugs that weren't confirmed to be sterile, and that the center did not comply with cleaning, sterilization and other safety regulations. Many employees at the center, from its owners to the pharmacists, actively lied about the practices.
14,000 contaminated vials were sent around the country, according to the report. CNN called it the deadliest meningitis outbreak in US history.
Cadden's lawyers conceded that the outbreak was caused by steroids manufactured at the pharmacy, but they said that murder charges weren't warranted. According to Associated Press, they claimed Cadden didn't know the drugs would kill people. Cadden’s defense attorney said he will appeal the racketeering and fraud conviction.
"It was unprovable, unwarranted and unjustified," said Bruce Singal, a defense attorney, according to the AP.
In January, victims of the outbreak talked to NPR about their resulting health issues.
Angela Farthing, 46, was one of them. It caused her, in addition to the fungal meningitis, to have a stroke and develop a brain aneurysm.
“I missed about a year of work,” she said. “And it was discovered later that I'd developed an abscess in my spinal cord. I had to have that surgically removed. But they could not get all of the abscess out, because they said if they would have sliced any deeper, they could have paralyzed me or I could have lost bowel or bladder function.”
She added that her husband suffered too when she was diagnosed.
“He had to take care of me, he had to bathe me, he had to change me, he had to do my IV. ... He had to take over cleaning the house and cooking and taking care of our dogs,” she said. According to the report, her husband was a recovering alcoholic and during this time he stopped going to Alcoholic Anonymous meetings and succumbed to his addiction.
Cadden's sentencing was set for June 21. He'll remain free on bail until then.
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