Pharmacist arrested in tainted steroid case

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Pharmacist arrested in tainted steroid case
Glenn Adam Chin, left, a former supervisory pharmacist at the New England Compounding Center, walks with his attorney Paul Shaw, right, after appearing in federal court, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in Boston. The pharmacy, which custom-mixed medications in bulk, has been blamed for a 2012 outbreak of fungal meningitis that killed 64 people. Chin was charged with one count of mail fraud, but federal prosecutors said it is part of a larger criminal investigation of Chin and others. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
A pedestrian walks into Hollywood/Wilshire Public Health Center in Los Angeles on Friday, April, 4, 2014. The Department of Public Health urged gay men who had HIV or multiple partners to be vaccinated against invasive meningococcal disease. Los Angeles County Public Health Clinics are offering free vaccines against invasive meningococcal disease to those without health insurance. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
People walk near the campus center at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., Monday, Dec. 9, 2013, where the Ivy League school began vaccinating nearly 6,000 students to try to stop an outbreak of type B meningitis. The vaccinations were recommended by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The vaccine is being made available to all undergraduates, as well as graduate students who live in dorms and employees with certain medical conditions. Seven students and one prospective student who was visiting campus have been stricken by potentially life-threatening type B meningococcal disease since March. None of the cases has been fatal. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Glenn Adam Chin, a former supervisory pharmacist at the New England Compounding Center, walks away from federal court after making an appearance, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in Boston. The pharmacy, which custom-mixed medications in bulk, has been blamed for a 2012 outbreak of fungal meningitis that killed 64 people. 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. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Glenn Adam Chin, left, a former supervisory pharmacist at the New England Compounding Center, walks with his attorney Paul Shaw, right, after appearing in federal court, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014, in Boston. The pharmacy, which custom-mixed medications in bulk, has been blamed for a 2012 outbreak of fungal meningitis that killed 64 people. Chin was charged with one count of mail fraud, but federal prosecutors said it is part of a larger criminal investigation of Chin and others. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
Thomas Clark, chief of the meningitis branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, listens to a question at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. Clark was on campus to oversee the vaccinations of nearly 6,000 students in an attempt to stop an outbreak of type B meningitis. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Thomas Clark, chief of the meningitis branch of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, listens to a question at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. Clark was on campus to oversee as the Ivy League school began vaccinating nearly 6,000 students to try to stop an outbreak of type B meningitis. The vaccinations were recommended by the CDC. The vaccine is being made available to all undergraduates, as well as graduate students who live in dorms and employees with certain medical conditions. Seven students and one prospective student who was visiting campus have been stricken by potentially life-threatening type B meningococcal disease since March. None of the cases has been fatal. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
A person walks from Nassau Hall at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. The Ivy League school has begun vaccinating nearly 6,000 students to try to stop an outbreak of type B meningitis in an unusual federal government-endorsed administration of a drug not generally approved for use in the United States. Seven students and one prospective student who was visiting campus have been stricken by potentially life-threatening type B meningococcal disease since March. None of the cases has been fatal. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
People walk at Princeton University in Princeton, N.J., Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. The Ivy League school has begun vaccinating nearly 6,000 students to try to stop an outbreak of type B meningitis in an unusual federal government-endorsed administration of a drug not generally approved for use in the United States. Seven students and one prospective student who was visiting campus have been stricken by potentially life-threatening type B meningococcal disease since March. None of the cases has been fatal. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
Juan Meza, a waiter in a West Hollywood restaurant, gets a free vaccine against bacterial meningitis at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in West Hollywood, Calif., Monday, April 15, 2013. The vaccines were offered at clinics in West Hollywood and Los Angeles, on Monday, following the death of a West Hollywood man, Saturday night. The man's death brought warnings from West Hollywood officials to sexually active gay men to beware of the threat. A strain of the illness circulated among gay men in New York and infected 22 people, killing seven, since 2010. Testing is underway to find whether this strain is similar. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
Walter Orlando, administrative assistant at AIDS Healthcare Foundation, gets a vaccine against bacterial meningitis at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation in West Hollywood, Calif., Monday, April 15, 2013. The vaccines were offered at clinics in West Hollywood and Los Angeles, on Monday, following the death of a West Hollywood man, Saturday night. The man's death brought warnings from West Hollywood officials to sexually active gay men to beware of the threat. A strain of the illness circulated among gay men in New York and infected 22 people, killing seven, since 2010. Testing is underway to find whether this strain is similar. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
An individual dose of vaccine against bacterial meningitis, left, is displayed for the media at the AIDS Healthcare Foundation pharmacy in West Hollywood, Calif., Monday, April 15, 2013. The vaccines were offered for free at clinics in West Hollywood and Los Angeles, on Monday, following the death of a West Hollywood man, Saturday night. The man's death brought warnings from West Hollywood officials to sexually active gay men to beware of the threat. A strain of the illness circulated among gay men in New York and infected 22 people, killing seven, since 2010. Testing is underway to find whether this strain is similar. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
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By DENISE LAVOIE

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.

In an affidavit, a special agent with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said Chin used numerous unsafe practices while producing the medication, including improper sterilization and improper testing. Agent Benedict Celso said that Chin also "instructed pharmacy technicians to mislabel medication to indicate it was properly sterilized and tested."

Celso also said Chin instructed pharmacy technicians to "fraudulently complete cleaning logs" at the end of the month "purporting to show the rooms were properly cleaned and maintained when in fact they had not been."

A woman whose husband contracted meningitis after getting a tainted injection at the Michigan clinic welcomed the criminal charge.

"They should take every one of them and put the same contaminated injection in their back," said Iona "Nell" Rye, of Maybee, Michigan.

She said her 74-year-old husband, Alfred, had been in excellent health before he received the injection in August 2012. He has recovered but still has some residual effects, she said.

"He doesn't have the same strength. He's off balance," she said.

The New England Compounding Center, based in Framingham, just west of Boston, gave up its license and filed for bankruptcy protection after it was flooded with hundreds of lawsuits. Attorneys for its creditors late last year announced a preliminary settlement with a victim compensation fund worth more than $100 million.

Shaw, Chin's attorney, said his client was at the airport with his family because he planned to attend a wedding in his wife's native Hong Kong, not to flee the country.

"This was a publicity stunt," Shaw said of the arrest.

He said Chin's wife, two young children and his mother boarded the plane to Hong Kong after he was arrested.

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