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Photo by: Tim Freed - A bad batch of steroid injections infected hundreds and killed 64 patients.
Winter Park / Maitland Observer Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015 3 years ago

Arrests resurrect Meningitis outbreak outrage

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Winter Parkers arrested
by: Tim Freed Associate Editor

Two Winter Park residents were allegedly on their way to their home when they were indicted for their alleged roles in a deadly meningitis outbreak.

Carla and Doug Conigliaro were indicted on Dec. 17 in connection with an outbreak of fungal meningitis that infected 687 people and killed 64 others in 20 states back in 2012.

Carla was the majority shareholder and director of the New England Compounding Center – the Massachusetts pharmaceutical company held responsible for the outbreak caused by contaminated steroid injections.

Authorities attributed the contamination to the NECC’s use of expired ingredients and failure to properly sterilize and test medications.

Carla’s husband, Doug, was an owner, director and president of Medical Sales Management, a sales company that falsely claimed the New England Compounding Center was providing the highest quality compounded medications.

The Conigliaros are among a group of 14 people indicted last month, all facing charges that include racketeering and conspiracy.

“They knew that the drugs that eventually killed 64 people and injured hundreds more could not be and should not have been injected into patients,” U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said during a press conference. “Yet they continued to make and sell those drugs, label them as injectable, which meant they were sterile, and dispense them throughout the country.”

“Production and profit were prioritized over safety.”

Carla and Doug Conigliaro were within days of returning to their Winter Park home before they were arrested in Dedham, Mass., according to a source close to the couple. The doctor had developed a good reputation when he had worked as an anesthesiologist in Orlando.

The couple were specifically charged with transferring assets following the fungal meningitis outbreak. The NECC declared bankruptcy and the bankruptcy court ordered the shareholders not to transfer assets, yet Carla and Doug allegedly transferred approximately $33.3 million to eight different bank accounts opened after the bankruptcy.

New England Compounding Center owner and head pharmacist Barry Cadden and supervising pharmacist Glenn Chin meanwhile face life in prison, charged with 25 acts of second-degree murder.

“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,” said Attorney General Eric Holder in a news release. “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.”

The indictment further accuses the NECC of routinely dispensing drugs in bulk without valid prescriptions, even allegedly using fictional and celebrity names such as “Big Baby Jesus,” “Wonder Woman,” “Jennifer Lopez” and “Michael Jackson” on fake prescriptions.

Trial dates have yet to be announced for the 14 defendants.

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