BOSTON — The owner of a compounding pharmacy blamed for meningitis outbreak in 2012 that killed more than 60 people and sickened 700 others was convicted Wednesday of racketeering charges but acquitted of 25 counts of second-degree murder.
Barry J. Cadden, who was the owner and head pharmacist at the New England Compounding Center, which operated out of a squat building in Framingham, Mass., had been indicted on nearly 100 counts for his role in the outbreak, which investigators said was caused by steroid injections tainted with fungus.
A federal jury heard more than nine weeks of testimony and began deliberations a week ago. The acquittal of Mr. Cadden, 50, probably spares him from a sentence of life in prison. Judge Richard G. Stearns of Federal District Court, who presided over the case, set June 21 for sentencing. Mr. Cadden, the first person to go to trial on charges related to the outbreak, will remain free until then.
The meningitis outbreak was one of the worst public health crises in the nation’s history. As people across the country began to report serious illnesses and deaths, officials from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention traced the contaminated drugs to the New England Compounding Center.
The outbreak occurred at a time of rising concern over the quality of compounded drugs and the uncertain provenance of their ingredients, some of which originate in China and flow through various re-packagers and middlemen with little scrutiny.
Officials looking into the New England Compounding Center case said investigators had found dirty mats and hoods, a leaky boiler, dark debris floating in vials of medicine and evidence that the laboratory was not leaving enough time to properly sterilize some products. They also said that a supposedly clean room at the facility was infested with bugs and mice.
Prosecutors said that Mr. Cadden had been told that the drugs could have been contaminated but that he recklessly disregarded industry regulations in pursuit of higher profits.
The defense argued that prosecutors had failed to show exactly how the drugs had been contaminated and failed to specify any role that Mr. Cadden might have played in the deaths.