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From Health Law Daily, September 5, 2014

Plagued pharmacist caught on the run

By Lisa A. Weder

A New England Compounding Center (NECC) supervisorial pharmacist was caught trying to leave the United States on September 4, 2014, after he was charged with one count of mail fraud. The Massachusetts pharmacist, Glenn Adam Chin, is connected with an ongoing criminal investigation involving a nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak that originated at NECC in 2012. Federal authorities arrested Chin at Boston's Logan International Airport as he was en route to Hong Kong.

The outbreak. Chin participated in compounding preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate (MPA) for use as an injectable chronic pain treatment for conditions such as peripheral joint and back pain. The tainted MPA lot was distributed to Michigan Pain Specialists. The lot was labeled as “injectable” for human use, and the facility’s doctors injected the drug into patients believing it to be safe. As a result, 217 of those patients contracted fungal meningitis, and 15 of those patients died.

In September 2012, Tennessee and North Carolina reported incidences of patients injected with the tainted MPA made by NECC. By October 2012, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), state and local health departments, and the FDA had identified 137 cases and 12 deaths associated with the outbreak in 10 states (see FDA releases customer lists for compounding facility in fungal meningitis outbreak, Oct. 25, 2012).

Since the 2012 outbreak, the CDC has reported that 751 U.S. patients have been diagnosed with a fungal infection after receiving injections of NECC-created MPA. The CDC reported that of these 751 patients, 64 have died.

Criminal charges. The criminal complaint charges Chin with participating in a scheme to fraudulently cause one lot of MPA to be labeled as injectable, which implies the lot was sterile and safe for human use. Shipping the MPA to the customer, Michigan Pain Specialists, constituted the mail fraud count. Chin was scheduled to appear before the U.S. District Court or the District of Massachusetts the same day he was arrested. If convicted, Chin may face a maximum of 20 years in prison, potentially followed by three years of supervised release, and a $250,000 fine.

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