Haverhill Pharmacist Faces Charges in 64 Meningitis Deaths

A Haverhill pharmacist is one of 14 people indicted today for their roles in the 2012 fungal meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people and sickened 751 people in 20 states.

Joseph M. Evanosky of Haverhill was a licensed pharmacist from April, 2011, to October, 2012, at New England Compounding Center (NECC) of Framingham. He and others face charges in federal court of second degree murder, racketeering, conspiracy, mail fraud, introduction of adulterated drugs into interstate commerce, contempt, structuring and aiding and abetting.

“As alleged in the indictment, these employees knew they were producing their medication in an unsafe manner and in insanitary conditions, and authorized it to be shipped out anyway, with fatal results,” said Attorney General Eric Holder.  “With the indictment and these arrests, the Department of Justice is taking decisive action to hold these individuals accountable for their alleged participation in grievous wrongdoing.  Actions like the ones alleged in this case display not only a reckless disregard for health and safety regulations, but also an extreme and appalling indifference to human life.  American consumers have a right to know that their medications are safe to use, and this case proves that the Department of Justice will always stand resolute to ensure that right, to protect the American people, and to hold wrongdoers accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

Besides Evanosky, the grand jury handed down indictments today in U.S. District Court against Barry J. Cadden, Glenn A. Chin, Gene Svirskiy, Christopher M. Leary, Scott M. Connolly, Sharon P. Carter, Alla V. Stepanets, Gregory A. Conigliaro, Robert A. Ronzio, Kathy S. Chin, Michelle L. Thomas, Carla R. Conigliaro And Douglas A. Conigliaro.

They are accused of using expired ingredients, falsifying expiration dates, failing to properly sterilize drugs, mixing stock solutions of different drug lots to fill customer orders, failing to recall drugs where microbial growth was detected, failing to properly clean and disinfect clean rooms, among other charges.

Prosecutors say the defendants’ “gloved-fingertip sampling revealed the presence of microorganisms on the hands of NECC compounding personnel.”

“Ever since the outbreak occurred, we have been committed to bringing to justice the individuals responsible for the deaths and suffering of so many innocent victims,” said U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz for the District of Massachusetts.  “The indictment announced today is the first step in that process which addresses alleged criminal wrongdoing at NECC, a business that prioritized production and profit over safety.  We will make every effort to ensure that licensed pharmacists, and those working with them, are held to a standard of care that protects the public from unsafe and dangerous medications.”

“Two years after the fungal meningitis outbreak, our hearts continue to go out to the victims of this tragedy and to their families,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg M.D.  “Our work on behalf of all patients who want and deserve medicines that do not subject them to undue risk is far from done.  The FDA will continue to work aggressively on many fronts with the states, the Department of Justice, and others to protect the American public from unsafe compounded drug products.”