NECC employees may begin testifying about the pharmacy’s role in the fungal meningitis outbreak this week, since a federal grand jury in Boston issued subpoenas over the weekend, according to the Boston Globe.
A former prosecutor told the paper that a grand jury convenes to investigate potential criminal charges.
“Prosecutors are expected to focus on three potential charges: fraud; selling tainted drugs in violation of the federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act; or defrauding Medicare or Medicaid,” the Globe reported. “Those crimes potentially carry maximum charges of three to 20 years in prison.”
Considering the number of people who’ve died during the fungal meningitis outbreak, prosecutors are likely to reject settlement offers and instead seek prison sentences for executives such as NECC managing pharmacist and co-owner Barry Cadden. It has not been reported whether the grand jury subpoenaed Cadden, who invoked his Fifth Amendment right when Congress questioned him in November.
Currently, NECC faces 70 federal fungal meningitis lawsuits, according to courier-journal.com. “Dozens of additional suits still remain in local courts. Lawyers for the compounding firm have predicted that the final total will top 400.”
Most recently, the son and daughter of a 72-year-old Tennessee woman filed a $15 million lawsuit against NECC. Elizabeth Pruitt was injected with the pharmacy’s contaminated steroid in July, August, and September, per The Tennessean.
NECC is pushing to consolidate all fungal meningitis lawsuits before U.S. District Judge F. Dennis Saylor in Boston.
“Judge Saylor has the judicial experience needed to steer this anticipated massive litigation on a prudent course to an expeditious conclusion,” NECC’s attorney wrote in the pharmacy’s motion concerning consolidated pretrial proceedings.
Saylor granted a request to temporarily consolidate 12 fungal meningitis lawsuits into an MDL, or multidistrict litigation, according to BostonHerald.com. He did, however, advise NECC not to destroy evidence.
"In a company that may or may not be going out of business – I don’t know – it’s easy for things to get lost," he said. "My expectation is that I will issue such an order to ensure evidence is preserved."
In January, a panel will decide whether fungal meningitis lawsuits should be consolidated, and, if so, where.