Friday, January 2, 2015

Compounding Pharmacy Executives Face Murder Charges

Back in 2012 a compounding pharmacy in New England made some injectable steroid compounds that caused an outbreak of fungal meningitis, ultimately killing 64 people in nine states. At the time, (see "Drug Compounding Pharmacies") I pointed out that compounding pharmacies are regulated by state boards of pharmacy, not by the federal government, making it difficult to oversee facilities pharmacies that sell their products across state lines. It wasn't even clear when (or if) anyone would be held accountable.

Well, finally: the United States attorney's office in Massachusetts has just charged 14 people with crimes associated with the event. An owner of the company and the company's head pharmacist were each charged with 25 counts of second-degree murder in seven states; both could receive maximum sentences of life in prison if convicted. According to the indictment, the two knew that the drugs they were producing were not being tested properly for sterility, but they permitted the company to continue producing and shipping the drugs anyway. (Oops!) Twelve other people were charged with various related crimes including mail fraud, conspiracy, and violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic act. Some of those charged were pharmacists working at the company.

The company ceased operation and declared bankruptcy after the 64 deaths. But that probably wasn't enough for relatives of the deceased, especially when (according to an FBI press release), several of the owners tried to transfer 33 million in assets to various banks after a court had ordered the company's assets frozen. We'll be watching to see who (if anyone) actually goes to jail.

No comments: