Fourteen people were charged Wednesday -- two in connection with murder -- in the biggest criminal case over contaminated medicine ever brought in the U.S..
In 2012, more than 750 people in 20 states were sickened, many with a rare form of fungal meningitis. 64 of them died. The cases were traced to the same compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts.
Outside Boston, federal agents began rounding up owners and employees of the New England Compounding Center just before dawn Wednesday.
"Production and profit were prioritized over safety," U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz said as she announced the arrests.
Compounding pharmacies are supposed to customize medications by prescription -- for instance, producing a liquid form of a drug for people who can't swallow a pill.
The government alleges that the employees at NECC'S suburban Boston labs knew they were producing medications in unsanitary conditions.
"Under the conditions in which these drugs were being made," Ortiz said, "it showed extreme disregard for human life."
The 131-count indictment includes racketeering, conspiracy and mail fraud for manufacturing and distributing the steroid methylprednisolone, tainted with fungus.
One of the compounding pharmacy's owners, Barry Cadden, and chief pharmacist Glen Chin are charged in connection with 25 deaths and face a possible life sentence. Glen Chin's lawyer disputed those charges.
"There's no evidence to indicate he knew that the batch was contaminated and/or that he intended to cause harm or death," attorney Stephen Weymouth said.
It was an emotional day for J.R. Mazure, who received the tainted steroids in Michigan and still has fungus in his spine after three operations.
"I cried, when I first heard it I cried, you know," Mazure said. "And then to see it on the news where you see Cadden, Barry Cadden walking in with handcuffs, you know there is maybe a little justification here finally."
One of the items from the indictment that defense attorneys will have to address: NECC allegedly conducted 38 tests of clean rooms. 27 times, the tests allegedly came back positive for mold and bacteria. Prosecutors said the people arrested Wednesday ignored those test results.