BOSTON (AP) — A pharmacist who oversaw the sterile clean rooms at a Massachusetts 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, didn't properly sterilize or test equipment and concealed the unsafe practices, federal investigators said.
The pharmacy, which custom-mixed medications in bulk, has been blamed for a 2012 outbreak of fungal meningitis that killed 64 people. About 750 people in 20 states developed meningitis — an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord — or other infections. Michigan, Tennessee and Indiana were hit the hardest.
Chin, 46, of Canton, was arrested at Logan International Airport. He 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.
During a brief federal court hearing Thursday afternoon, Assistant U.S. Attorney George Varghese said the investigation was ongoing. "We are looking at Mr. Chin for a host of other criminal conduct," he said.
Chin's attorney, Paul Shaw, called the charge "absolute nonsense." He said Chin does not dispute that the steroids were contaminated, but said, "No one has a good understanding of the source of the contamination."
"Mr. Chin feels horrible about the consequences of this," Shaw said.
Chief Magistrate Judge Jennifer Boal released Chin pending trial, but ordered him confined to his home.
Prosecutors said Chin was involved in compounding the contaminated methylprednisolone acetate, or MPA, that caused the outbreak.
They allege 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 in Brighton, Michigan.
After receiving the drug, Michigan Pain Specialists doctors 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.
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