Meningitis verdict hits close to home

The founder of a pharmacy company in the middle of a nationwide meningitis outbreak, which killed 76 people including a Christiansburg native, has been sentenced to nine years in prison.

Barry Cadden wiped away tears after hearing the verdict last week in Massachusetts and apologized to families that were in the courtroom.

“I am sorry for the whole range of suffering that resulted from my company’s drugs,” Cadden said.

His company was blamed for sending out tainted steroid shots in 2012 to clinics around the nation.

One of those that received tainted shots was Diana Bergeson Reed who graduated from Christiansburg High School in 1974.

She had been suffering from neck pain and received three steroid injections from a Nashville facility 2012 that turned out to be one of the receivers of the meningitis-infected drug produced at the New England Compounding Center.

She began to experience severe headaches, was hospitalized, had a series of strokes and went into a coma, dying a short time later.

Her husband, Wayne Reed, is a 1971 Christiansburg High School graduate.

Several of their family members still live in the New River Valley, and like others around the country, cannot believe Cadden received such a small sentence.

Connie Reed was Diana’s cousin and said the sentence was not enough.

“It (her death) was awful,” she said.

Prosecutors had asked Cadden be sentenced to life prison, saying he ran the company in an “extraordinarily dangerous” way, sending out the steroids when he knew there was mold present in the room where the steroids were made.

Cadden was found not guilty by a jury on 25-second degree murder charges, but guilty of fraud and conspiracy.

More than 700 people were sickened and died in 20 different states including Tennessee where Diana Reed received her shots. Additionally, hundreds of individuals received the tainted lot at clinics in our area.

Two clinics–one in Roanoke and a second in Christiansburg—were linked to the tainted steroid allotment from the New England Compounding Center in Framingham, Mass.

According to the Virginia Department of Health, New River Valley Surgery Center in Christiansburg, identified 27 patients that received the injection. Insight Imaging in Roanoke identified as many as 600 patients that received it.

The aspergillus meningitis outbreak was connected, according to health officials, to these spinal steroid injections, a common treatment for back pain. A sealed vial of the steroid, called methylprednisolone acetate, was found to contain fungus, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

All the individuals from the New River Valley survived but continue to fight health problems all associated with the shots.

Federal prosecutors said the pharmacy used expired ingredients and falsified logs to make it look as if so-called clean rooms had been disinfected. Inspectors would later find several sources of contamination including mold and bacteria in the same rooms.

Reed’s health problems came out of nowhere as just weeks before she died, she was the picture of health.

Bob Bergeson, Diana’s brother and a 1975 Christiansburg HS graduate, told a New York Times reporter, “Diana kind of became Wayne’s arms, legs and voice.”

New England Compounding Center filed for bankruptcy after being hit by hundreds of lawsuits filed by victims and their families including many here in the New River Valley.

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