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Pharmacist Accused of Starting Meningitis Outbreak Starts Trial

Meningitis Outbreak

Former supervisory pharmacist for the New England Compounding Center, Glenn Chin, left, leaves the federal courthouse in Boston with his attorney Stephen Weymouth after a hearing to announce conditions of his bail and release. (AP Photo/Elise Amendola, File)

BOSTON (AP) — A pharmacist accused of making the drugs that caused a deadly nationwide meningitis outbreak showed a “shocking disregard” for human life by failing to ensure the medicines were safe, a prosecutor told jurors as his trial opened Tuesday.

Glenn Chin, the supervisory pharmacist at the now-closed New England Compounding Center, ran the clean rooms where the drugs were made. He is charged with second-degree murder and other crimes under federal racketeering law for his role in the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that killed 76 people and sickened hundreds of others.

Chin instructed his staff to use expired ingredients, falsify documents and neglect cleaning in order to get the products out the door as quickly as possible, Assistant U.S. Attorney George Varghese said during his opening statement. Chin also failed to properly sterilize the drugs, shipped products before they were tested and ignored findings of mold and bacteria in the clean rooms, Varghese said.

At the same time, the products were being touted as the highest quality compounded drugs on the market, Varghese said.

“It’s a story of greed and cutting corners,” Varghese told the group of 11 women and four men serving as jurors. “But mostly it’s a story about fraud.”

Chin, who was wearing a dark suit and glasses, took notes and sometimes shook his head while Varghese spoke during the opening of the trial, which is expected to last several weeks.

Chin’s attorney, who was expected to give his opening statement later Tuesday, said he intends to place the blame on Barry Cadden, the co-founder of the pharmacy. Chin’s attorney, Stephen Weymouth, told The Associated Press that Chin was essentially a “puppet” for Cadden, who was calling all the shots.

Cadden was sentenced in June to nine years in prison after being acquitted of second-degree murder charges but convicted on conspiracy and fraud charges.

Chin is charged in the deaths of 25 people in Florida, Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

Varghese slowly read the names of those victims to the jurors while their pictures flashed across a television screen. While Chin did not intend to kill them, he should have known that his actions could be deadly, the prosecutor said.

“He knew he had a job to do, which was to make these drugs sterile, and he just didn’t care enough to do it,” Varghese said.

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