BOSTON (AP) — A pharmacist who worked for a Massachusetts company blamed for a nationwide meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people pleaded not guilty to a mail fraud charge Thursday as his lawyer said he is concerned he could be made a scapegoat.
Glenn Adam Chin, 46, of Canton, entered his plea during a brief arraignment in federal court in Boston.
Prosecutors say Chin oversaw the sterile clean rooms at the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, which custom-mixed medications in bulk and where tainted steroids blamed for the 2012 outbreak were made.
Chin, a supervisory pharmacist, is accused of participating in a scheme to fraudulently cause one lot to be labeled as injectable, meaning it was sterile and fit for human use. The drug was shipped to Michigan Pain Specialists in Brighton, Michigan, and injected into patients. As a result, 217 patients contracted fungal meningitis, and 15 died.
Chin is the first person to be charged criminally in the case, but prosecutors have said the prosecution is part of a larger criminal investigation of Chin and others.
"I think he and others will be scapegoated," said Stephen Weymouth, an attorney appointed Thursday to represent Chin. "Someone has to be made to pay. I'm just not sure Mr. Chin is that person."
Prosecutors allege that Chin did not properly sterilize or test equipment and concealed unsafe practices.
About 750 people in 20 states who were injected with the tainted steroids for pain developed meningitis — an inflammation of the lining of the brain and spinal cord — or other infections. Of those, 64 died. Michigan, Tennessee and Indiana were hit the hardest.
Chin is free pending trial but is under home confinement.
The compounding center gave up its license and filed for bankruptcy protection after it was deluged with hundreds of lawsuits. Last year, attorneys for its creditors announced a preliminary settlement with a victim compensation fund worth more than $100 million.