Eight years’ prison for role in deadly ‘fungal zoo’

A pharmacist involved in the deadly 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak in the US has been jailed for eight years

Glenn Chin was the supervisory pharmacist at the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Massachusetts when it sent contaminated injections of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate out to patients across 20 US states.

In 2012, 753 patients were diagnosed with fungal meningitis after receiving the injections, and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that 64 of these patients died.

The number of patients infected was later revised upwards to 793 by the US Government.

In October 2017 Mr Chin was convicted of 77 counts including racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud and introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud and mislead.

The Court in Boston heard that he had manufactured three lots of contaminated MPA – comprising more than 17,000 vials of the medicine.

A statement from the US Attorney’s Office, District of Massachusetts said that Mr Chin ignored the NECC’s own drug formulation worksheets and standard operating procedures, failing to properly sterilise the MPA, failing to verify the sterilisation process and improperly testing it to ensure sterility.

Despite being aware of these deficiencies, Mr Chin directed the contaminated injections to be filled into thousands of vials and shipped to NECC patients across the US.

During the fungal meningitis outbreak the CDC identified 18 different types of fungi from MPA vials and patient samples.

One public health official said that NECC was a “fungal zoo”.

Mr Chin directed the shipping of drugs prior to receiving test results confirming their sterility, and he directed NECC staff to mislabel drugs to conceal this practice.

He also directed the compounding of drugs with expired ingredients, including chemotherapy drugs that had expired several years prior.

The US Attorney’s Office said he prioritised drug production over cleaning, directed the forging of cleaning logs, and routinely ignored mould and bacteria found inside the clean rooms.

And for more than three years, Mr Chin and co-conspirators used the services of a pharmacy technician whose license had been revoked by the Massachusetts Board of Pharmacy to compound highly sensitive cardiac drug solutions, and took steps to conceal the technician’s presence inside the clean room from state regulators. 

“As a licensed pharmacist, Glenn Chin took an oath to protect his patients,” said Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Boston Division.

“In contrast, he failed miserably by cutting corners, ignoring warning signs, and harming hundreds of people with his reckless disregard for their safety. 

“Dozens of unsuspecting patients died because of the tainted drugs that were distributed on his watch.”

Mr Chin was sentenced to eight years in prison, two years of supervised release and forfeiture and restitution in an amount which is yet to be determined.

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