Pharmacy supervisor arrested in tainted steroids case

Mass. pharmacist linked to meningitis outbrea... 03:15

There has been an arrest in a story CBS News has long been investigating - one of the biggest pharmaceutical disasters ever.

At least 751 people came down with meningitis and other infections and 64 died after getting tainted steroid injections. They were produced by a Boston compounding pharmacy - that's a pharmacy that makes custom drugs.

On Thursday, a supervisor at that facility was arrested at Logan International Airport as he was about to leave the country for Hong Kong.

Glenn Chin, shown in a courtroom sketch, appears in federal court Thursday. CBS News

Glenn Chin, the head pharmacist for the New England Compounding Center, stands charged with one count of mail fraud for labeling steroids as stable and safe for human use, when officials say he knew they weren't.

Food and Drug Administration investigators say Chin "instructed pharmacy technicians to mislabel medication to indicate it was properly sterilized and tested" and "fraudulently completed cleaning logs" in the labs."

An affidavit states NECC then shipped those tainted steroids to pain doctors in Michigan, who unknowingly injected them into their patients. In one clinic alone, 217 patients got fungal infections, including meningitis. Fifteen of them died.

Joe Connolly worked for Chin as a lab tech at NECC. In an interview with Scott Pelley for "60 Minutes," he said he warned his boss about the contamination risks.

CBS News

"When you went to your supervisor and told him that, he said what?" asked Pelley.

Connolly shrugged. "That's verbatim.," he said. "He shrugged. That was his response for a lot of our questions or comments or concerns, a shrug."

One of the company's owners, Barry Cadden, also didn't appear worried about oversight from state inspectors when speaking to his sales staff as NECC started ramping up production.

CBS News obtained an internal training video.

"They have no clue. They go around and they're like, 'Oh, Barry, this place looks great.' Yeah, I got to go, a cup of coffee and they go out the door and really, that's what it's like," Cadden said in the video.

But after hundreds were sickened in 20 states, federal inspectors shut down the company's plant west of Boston after finding standing water, mold and fungus. The lab was located in the same building as a recycling company, another business owned by Cadden and his family.

Chin's arrest marks the first criminal charges, but with a grand jury still considering evidence after a nearly two-year investigation, it's probably not the last.

"If I were in that chain, kind of that organizational chain, I wouldn't be breathing a sigh of relief. I'd continue to be concerned about whether or not I'm going to be implicated if I was anywhere in that chain," said Mike Sullivan, a former U.S. attorney in Boston.

Chin's attorney says his client was headed to Hong Kong with a round-trip ticket to attend a family wedding and that his arrest at the airport was "ridiculous" and "a publicity stunt."

  • Jim Axelrod
    Jim Axelrod

    Jim Axelrod is the chief investigative correspondent and senior national correspondent for CBS News, reporting for "CBS This Morning," the "CBS Evening News," "CBS Sunday Morning," and other CBS News broadcasts.