Two Pharmacists at New England Compounding Center Convicted by Federal Jury
Third verification pharmacist sentenced today
BOSTON – Two former verification pharmacists at New England Compounding Center (NECC) were convicted yesterday of violating the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FDCA). The convictions mark the fourth and final trial resulting from the 2014 indictment of NECC owners, employees, and executives in connection with the 2012 nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak.
Kathy S. Chin, 47, of Canton, and Michelle L. Thomas, 35, of Cumberland, R.I., were convicted of four and two counts, respectively, of dispensing drugs without valid prescriptions with the intent to defraud or mislead government regulators. U.S. District Court Judge Richard G. Stearns scheduled sentencing for Aug. 8 and Aug. 9, 2019, respectively.
During the trial, the jury heard evidence that NECC, a licensed pharmacy, routinely dispensed drugs in bulk without valid prescriptions. Chin and Thomas served as verification pharmacists, signing off on drug orders prior to shipment to customers. Chin was convicted of approving shipments of drugs for patients with names such as Flash Gordon, Long John, Tony Tiger, Chester Cheeto, Dale Earnhardt, Tom Brokaw, Jon Stewart, Jay Leno, David Letterman, and Dick Van Dyke, among others. Thomas was convicted of approving shipments of drugs for patients with names such as L.L. Bean, Filet O’Fish, Rug Doctor, Squeaky Wheel, Dingo Boney, Coco Puff, and Harry Potter, among others.
The jury also found that Chin and Thomas dispensed these prescription drugs with the intent to defraud and mislead government regulators. Specifically, the evidence demonstrated that NECC repeatedly took steps to shield its operations from regulatory oversight by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) by claiming to be a pharmacy dispensing drugs pursuant to valid, patient-specific prescriptions. The jury heard evidence that the fake prescriptions approved by Chin and Thomas allowed NECC to operate as an unregulated drug manufacturer.
Today, Alla Stepanets, 38, of Framingham, was sentenced to one-year of probation by Judge Stearns. In December 2018, Stepanets, a licensed pharmacist, who worked as another verification pharmacist at NECC, was convicted of six counts of dispensing drugs without valid prescriptions. Specifically, Stepanets was convicted of approving shipments of drugs for patients with names such as Wonder Woman, Fat Albert, Bud Weiser, Samuel Adams, Hindsight Man, Betty Ford, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, Donald Trump, Calvin Klein and Jennifer Lopez, among others.
In June 2017, Barry Cadden, the former owner and head pharmacist for NECC, was sentenced to nine years in prison and three years of supervised release after being convicted of racketeering, racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud and introduction of misbranded drugs into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud and mislead. In January 2018, Glenn Chin, NECC’s former supervisory pharmacist, was sentenced to eight years in prison and two years of supervised release after being convicted of 77 counts. With the convictions of Chin and Thomas yesterday, a total of 13 NECC defendants have been convicted of 178 charges.
United States Attorney Andrew E. Lelling; FDA Acting Commissioner Norman E. Sharpless, M.D.; Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division; Leigh-Alistair Barzey, Special Agent in Charge of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, Northeast Field Office; Sean Smith, Special Agent in Charge of the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, Criminal Investigations Division; and Joseph W. Cronin, Inspector in Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Boston Division, made the announcement today. Acting Chief Amanda P.M. Strachan of Lelling’s Health Care Fraud Unit and Assistant U.S. Attorney George P. Varghese investigated and indicted the case. Strachan and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Looney tried the case against Chin and Thomas.