In the trial that lasted nine weeks, the jury took 20 hours before they agreed to convict Barry J Cadden of Weymouth with the intent to defraud and mislead when he shipped fungus-contaminated drugs across the US.

The fraud and other charges carry a maximum of 20 years in prison and the sentence is scheduled for 21 June.

The most controversial part of the verdict was the acquittal of his 25 counts of second-degree murder, even though it was clear that the meningitis outbreak had claimed 64 lives and caused hundreds of illnesses across the US nation.

According to the US Centres for Diseases Control and Prevention, in September 2012, 751 patients in 20 states suffered meningitis infections after being injected with steroids made by the New England Compounding Centre (NECC) in Framingham.

Fictional and celebrity names used on fake prescriptions

The deaths, which his lawyers described as an “unfortunate tragedy” rather than “murder”, were traced to the contaminated vials of preservative-free steroids.

In their investigation, regulators found multiple potential sources of contamination, including standing water, mould and bacteria in the air and on workers' gloved fingertips. The US Attorney's Office said the NECC used fictional and celebrity names on fake prescriptions to dispense drugs, such as "Michael Jackson", "Freddie Mae" and "Diana Ross."

During the trial, prosecutors said Cadden ran his business in an "extraordinarily dangerous" way by skirting industry regulations on sterility and cleanliness in his haste to push production and boost profits. The pharmacist had made loud claims that the pharmacy adhered to testing protocols and used state-of-the-art equipment.

Instead, the drugs were produced in unsanitary conditions, leading to fungal contamination. Vials of the steroid were shipped to doctors at pain management clinics, who injected patients with the drugs. Prosecutors noted that the NECC also used expired ingredients and falsified logs to create the impression that the clean rooms had been disinfected when they were not.

"It was preventable, but it happened because this man, Barry Cadden, decided to put profits before patients," said Assistant US Attorney Amanda Strachan.

His acquittal of murder sparked a surge of mixed reactions

“This case was a national tragedy,” said acting US Attorney for the District of Massachusetts William Weinreb. “He used [New England Compounding] to perpetrate a massive fraud that harmed hundreds of people, but the jury saw through that fraud, and today they held Barry Cadden responsible for his crimes.”

"We are very gratified by the verdicts today. Those are extremely serious offenses, and they carry very stiff penalties," added Weinreb. "Of course, we're disappointed that the jurors did not also find that he committed the second-degree murder predicate counts."

Eric Christofferson, former Assistant US Attorney who was involved in the initial part of the case, was not surprised by the mixed verdict and said that proving intent for the second-degree murder charges was difficult.

Defence lawyer Bruce Singal argued that Cadden was mindful it was important “to remember the victims of this public health tragedy”, but believed his client should never have been accused of murder.

“Murder is the worst crime known to humanity, and it is a terrible injustice that Barry Cadden was labelled with this charge by the government for more than two years,” he added, “It was unprovable, unwarranted, and unjustified, and we are deeply grateful the jury saw it that way.”

Singal intends to appeal, as he saw insufficient evidence to hold Cadden responsible for the deaths, and rejected the government’s claims on NECC’s disregard for health standards. He maintained that his client was an executive not directly involved in mixing drugs.

Verdict hit hard on victims and their families

“He had no regard for human life, really. He was very greed-oriented,” said Dee Morell, one of the victims who still suffers the intense pain in her hip from the contaminated shot.

“I am sad it is not murder, but he knows what he has done,” said Carol Burema Snyder, whose 89-year-old mother died in October 2012 after being injected with a tainted steroid.

Another family who lost a member, Donald McDavid, through the tainted injections, said, "We live with Don’s loss every day. We take some comfort in knowing Mr Cadden will be held accountable for his actions. No matter how long Mr Cadden spends in prison, it will never bring Don back.” MIMS

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