An owner and four former employees of a now-shuttered Framingham compounding pharmacy were convicted Thursday of federal charges related to a 2012 meningitis outbreak that’s killed more than 100 people who took tainted drugs made at the facility, authorities said.
In a statement, US Attorney Andrew E. Lelling’s office announced the convictions in the case involving the notorious New England Compounding Center.
Prosecutors also laid out the scope of the deadly outbreak.
“In 2012, 753 patients in 20 states were diagnosed with a fungal infection after receiving injections of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate (MPA) manufactured by NECC,” the release said. “Of those 753 patients, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that 64 patients in nine states died. The government has since identified a total of 793 patients throughout the country harmed by NECC’s contaminated MPA. More than 100 patients have now died.”
According to prosecutors, pharmacists “knowingly made and sold numerous drugs” in an unsafe manner. “The unsafe manner included, among other things, the pharmacists’ failure to properly sterilize NECC’s drugs, failure to properly test NECC’s drugs for sterility, and failure to wait for test results before sending the drugs to customers. They also approved the use of expired drug ingredients, and the mislabeling of those drugs in order to deceive customers.”
Lelling’s office said Greg Conigliaro, 53, a former owner of NECC, was convicted Thursday of conspiracy to defraud the United States. Conigliaro’s lawyer, Dan Rabinovitz of the firm of Murphy & King, said he and his client are “disappointed” by the verdict and intend to “pursue all available avenues to correct it.”
Sharon Carter, 54, NECC’s former operations director, was convicted of the same charge, prosecutors said. Her lawyer couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Two former clean room pharmacists at NECC, Gene Svirskiy, 37, and Christopher Leary, 34, were both found guilty of multiple charges including introduction of adulterated drugs into interstate commerce with intent to defraud or mislead, the statement said.
Leary’s lawyer, Paul V. Kelly, said via e-mail that he and his client are “pleased that the jury acquitted Mr. Leary of the most serious charges of racketeering and racketeering conspiracy, but disappointed that they failed to follow the evidence and found him guilty of a few of the substantive counts. We will be filing post-trial motions and an appeal if necessary.”
Svirskiy’s attorney didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Alla Stepanets, 38, a former verification pharmacist, was convicted of multiple counts of introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce. John H. Cunha Jr., a lawyer for Stepanets, said his client was “acquitted of every felony” she was charged with.
Stepanets faces a maximum prison term of one year, according to prosecutors.
“The number of not guiltys in this case shows what a horrible overreach and overcharging there was on behalf of the government,” Cunha said. “The fact that they’ve made our client’s life miserable for her and her family for four years . . . is an outrage.”
Joseph M. Evanosky, 46, another former clean room pharmacist, was acquitted of all charges.
“I am gratified that the jury has exonerated my client,” said his lawyer, Mark Pearlstein, in a statement. “He never should have been charged with any crimes, and today’s verdict finally will allow him to move forward with his life.”
Lelling said the defendants acted recklessly and imperiled public health.
“Over the course of years, the defendants callously disregarded patient health by cutting corners and prioritizing profits over safety,” Lelling said.
Thursday’s verdicts came approximately 18 months after Barry J. Cadden, the co-owner of NECC, was sentenced to nine years in prison for his role in the deadly outbreak.
Cadden was convicted in March 2017 of fraud and racketeering charges stemming from the public health crisis triggered when NECC sent tainted medicines around the country, causing a fungal meningitis outbreak that killed at least 60 and sickened hundreds. The jury did not convict him of second-degree-murder charges.
Glenn Chin, former supervisory pharmacist at NECC, was sentenced to eight years in prison in January for his role in the outbreak but, like Cadden, was cleared of second-degree murder.
The defendants convicted Thursday are slated for sentencing in March.
Travis Andersen can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.