Two pharmacists sentenced for roles in 2012 meningitis outbreak

Nearly 800 people in 20 states were diagnosed

By Taylor Romine, Chuck Johnston, and Chris Boyette
By CDC [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Two former pharmacists were sentenced on Thursday for their part in a nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak in 2012.

Gene Svirskiy, 38, was sentenced to 30 months in prison and one year of supervised release. Christopher Leary, 34, was sentenced to two years of probation and 100 hours of community service, according to court documents. The first eight months of Leary's probation will be in home confinement with electronic monitoring.

Nearly 800 people in 20 states were diagnosed with fungal meningitis and other infections after receiving contaminated medication manufactured by the New England Compounding Center (NECC), a compounding pharmacy based in Framingham, Massachusetts. More than 100 patients have now died, making it the largest public health crisis caused by a pharmaceutical drug, according to US Attorney Andrew Lelling.

The deaths were caused by contaminated vials of preservative-free methylprednisolone acetate, a steroid manufactured by the compounding pharmacy.

"Given that Mr. Leary was the youngest, least experienced, and least culpable employees who worked at NECC, with no criminal history of any kind, the sentence impose was fair, reasonable and just," said his attorney Paul Kelly in a statement. "It also needs to be emphasized that Mr. Leary played no role whatsoever in the compounding of the medication that caused the tragic outbreak of spinal meningitis."

Barry Caden, the NECC's owner and head pharmacist, was sentenced to nine years in 2017 after he was convicted of 57 counts of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud and introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud and mislead.

Glenn Chin, the former supervisory pharmacist at the NECC, was sentenced to eight years in prison in January 2018 on 77 counts, including racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud and introduction of misbranded drugs.

A total of 13 NECC defendants have been convicted of 178 charges stemming from the outbreak, according to court documents.

CNN has reached out to Svirskiy's lawyer for comment.

CNN's Gabriela Milian, Olivia Kiely, Shachar Peled and Kylee Tsuru contributed to this report.

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