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Updates on two Massachusetts men facing murder charges for Michigan meningitis deaths

prison bars

The preliminary hearing for Barry Cadden and Glenn Chin begins today in district court in Livingston County. The two men are accused of second-degree murder for their roles in a 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak caused by tainted medications that killed dozens of people across the country, including 23 in Michigan. 

Michigan Radio's Kate Wells joined Morning Edition host Doug Tribou to preview the hearing. She recently reported on the new prosecutions in Michigan and the background of the case. That story appears below.

Two men facing murder charges related to the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak are currently in a Livingston County jail, awaiting their preliminary hearing next week, a court administrator said Tuesday.

Barry Cadden and Glenn Chin both face 11 counts of second-degree murder in the deaths of Michigan residents Donna Kuzinch, Paula Brent, Lyn Lapierriere, Sally Roe, Mary Pletti, Gayle Gibson, Patricia Malafouris, Emma Todd, Jennie Barth, Ruth Madhouse, and Karina Baxter.

All 11 victims received tainted steroid medications made by the New England Compounding Center, which Cadden owned and where Chin was a supervising pharmacist. NECC shipped the deadly medications to clinics around the country, resulting in at least 64 deathsand 753 illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The state Attorney General's office says 23 of those deaths were in Michigan. Federal prosecutorsdescribe it as the “largest public health crisis ever caused by a pharmaceutical product.”

The same prosecutors say Cadden directed NECC employees to assure “customers that they were getting safe drugs, while Cadden ignored grave environmental failures, used expired active ingredients, and took innumerable other production shortcuts that led to numerous, entirely preventable deaths.”

Chin, meanwhile, allegedly manufactured massive amounts of the contaminated medication, known as preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate or MPA. It was often injected directly into people’s spinal areas to treat chronic pain issues. According to federal prosecutors, Chin deliberately skipping sterilizations and improperly testing the vials of medication in order to make them appear safe for patients.

“During the fungal meningitis outbreak, the CDC identified 18 different types of fungi from MPA vials and patient samples,” officials said last year. “In the words of one public health official, NECC was a ‘fungal zoo.’”

Juries in Massacusetts convicted Cadden and Chin on related charges involving racketeering, conspiracy and fraud. Chin received eight years, while Cadden received nine. The same juries, however, acquitted both men on second degree murder charges in those trials.

Then, in December, the Michigan Attorney General’s office charged Cadden and Chin with second-degree murder related to the Michigan deaths. Both men face up to life in prison. They’ll have a preliminary exam in Livingston County next week, where a district judge will decide whether there’s enough evidence to send the case to trial.

Reached for comment, Chin’s Michigan attorney, James Buttrey, said he had received the state’s complaint against his client, and that he had been appointed to represent Chin by the court. The state Attorney General’s office says Cadden is being represented by two attorneys with the Miller Canfield firm. Neither attorney was immediately available for comment.

UPDATE: A previous version of this story reported 19 Michigan residents died from complications related to tainted steroid medication. That number is from the CDC which stopped counting deaths in October of 2015. The most recent number of 23 deaths in Michigan is provided by the Attorney General's office.

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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