BOSTON — Four years after Federal Judge Richard Stearns imposed a nine-year sentence on Barry Cadden, he added another five and a half years to the prison term of the former owner of the New England Compounding Center.
Stearns made that decision after the First Circuit Court of Appeals vacated his sentence, urging he consider certain enhancements to the penalty by taking into consideration such things as whether Cadden acted in a reckless manner, what constituted a ‘victim’ and whether those who died or were sickened by the contaminated lots of drugs shipped out of the Framingham facility were especially ‘vulnerable.’
Cadden’s attorney, Bruce Singal, reminded the court that he was not convicted of the most serious charges he faced, dozens of second-degree murder cand drug alteration counts.
Singal also charged the government with hyping the idea that NECC was a long-time ‘criminal enterprise’ pumping out batch after batch of spoiled products.
“The government has vastly overstated the contamination and filth at NECC,” Singal said. “Look at the safety record. NECC really did have a stellar safety record.”
Singal noted that, for six years and through 800,000 doses, the company had no problems with maintaining the sterility of medications and that even on the days when the contaminated lots were produced, many uncontaminated lots were also produced.
“The evidence never pointed to who or what caused the contamination,” Singal said, in arguing that the judge should not extend Cadden’s sentence any longer.
But Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Strachan hearkened back to the day she saw an unprecedented 73 subpoenas go out to the clinics that received contaminated batches of NECC’s methylprednisolone acetate, injections of which caused the outbreak of fungal meningitis which killed at least 64 and sickened another 800 in 2012.
“Cadden knew his drugs were dangerous and substandard,” Strachan said. “You cannot separate the way sterile drugs are made from their quality. No clinic would want to buy drugs from NECC if they knew how they were made.”
They were made, Strachan said, in ‘clean rooms’ that were not clean – where mold was growing, in fact, and the company knew this.
“He knew his conduct could kill, not that it would,” Strachan said. “That is reckless.”
Strachan seemed to hint that greed was at least part of the motivation for NECC.
“Cadden dramatically ramped up drug production in 2010, 2011, 2012,” she said.
During this time, Strachan charged that corners were cut, such that even lots of an anti-infective combination, polymyxin B/bacitracin, labelled sterile, were, in fact, contaminated. It became business as usual to dispense medications that were substandard by then, Strachan said.
“This is a criminal enterprise. Not a series of discrete, criminal acts,” she told the judge.
In adding 174 months to Cadden’s sentence, Judge Stearns rejected the government’s call for an additional 210 months.
“Mr. Cadden recognized the horror and tried to avert it but too late,” Stearns said.
The judge also noted that for a ‘pure fraud’ conviction, the nine-year sentence imposed in 2017 was on the high side.
Stearns also ordered around $82 million paid in restitution, the vast majority of it to victims and families. And he made an executive decision on a forfeiture amount, limiting it to the value of the contaminated drug lots - about $1.4 million.
Thursday, the other NECC employee convicted in the contaminated drug scandal, Glenn Chinn, will face a similar hearing. He is currently serving an eight-year term.
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