Pharmacist arrested in tainted steroid case

Staff Writer
Columbus CEO

BOSTON (AP) — A pharmacist who oversaw the sterile clean rooms at a compounding pharmacy responsible for a deadly meningitis outbreak was arrested Thursday as he was about to board a flight for Hong Kong, federal officials said.

Glenn Adam Chin, a former supervisory pharmacist at the New England Compounding Center, was arrested at Logan International Airport, the U.S. attorney's Office in Boston aid.

The pharmacy has been blamed for a 2012 outbreak of fungal meningitis, an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord, that killed 64 people. About 750 people in 20 states developed meningitis or other infections. Michigan, Tennessee and Indiana were hit the hardest.

Chin, 46, of Canton, was charged with one count of mail fraud, but federal prosecutors said it is part of a larger criminal investigation of Chin and others. He is the first person to be charged in the inquiry.

It was not immediately known whether Chin has an attorney. He was expected to appear in federal court Thursday afternoon.

Prosecutors said Chin supervised the clean rooms and was involved in compounding the contaminated methylprednisolone acetate, or MPA, that caused the outbreak.

An affidavit filed in U.S. District Court to support an arrest warrant alleges that Chin participated in a scheme to fraudulently cause one lot of MPA to be labeled as injectable, meaning that it was sterile and fit for human use. The lot was shipped to Michigan Pain Specialists.

After receiving the drug, doctors at Michigan Pain Specialists injected it into patients, believing it to be safe. As a result, 217 patients contracted fungal meningitis, and 15 of them died, according to the affidavit.

The New England Compounding Center, based in Framingham, just west of Boston, gave up its license and filed for bankruptcy protection after it was flooded with hundreds of lawsuits from people who received tainted steroid injections. Attorneys for its creditors late last year announced a preliminary settlement that would set up a victim compensation fund worth more than $100 million.

The contaminated medication was first discovered in the fall of 2012 after people who received steroid injections for back pain became ill.

Inspectors found a host of potential contaminants at the company's Framingham plant, including standing water, mold, water droplets and dirty equipment. Fungus was found in more than 50 vials from the pharmacy.

Regulators said the company did not perform enough tests before sending the drugs to hospitals and clinics.

A federal grand jury in Boston has been investigating the center for the last two years. In recent months, FBI agents have interviewed victims and their families.