Pharmacy Chief in Meningitis Outbreak Takes the Fifth

Barry Cadden sheds no light on what happened

By John Johnson,  Newser Staff

Posted Nov 14, 2012 5:22 PM CST

(Newser) – The co-owner and chief pharmacist of the company linked to the meningitis outbreak arrived on Capitol Hill today for a grilling armed with lawyers and an index card. And when House lawmakers asked Barry Cadden of the New England Compounding Center things like what happened or what he might say to victims, he read from the card:

  • "Under advice of counsel, I respectfully decline to answer under basis of my constitutional rights and privileges, including the Fifth Amendment."
He deviated only once, when asked whether he was going to invoke the Fifth on all questions, to which he answered, "Yes." Lawmakers then let him leave.

Also at the hearing, FDA chief Margaret Hamburg said her agency needs clearer authority from Congress to go after compounding centers, reports AP. But she didn't get off easy, notes the Guardian:

  • Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla: "You're the grand poobah of the FDA and I'm asking you, 'Could you have prevented this tragedy?' and you're saying you couldn't have because you don't have jurisdiction."
  • Hamburg: "No, I'm saying it's very hard to know if any one action we might have taken would have stopped this terrible tragedy."
And finally, the Boston Globe reports that Cadden was picked in 2002 to serve on a state task force set up to write new rules for compounding pharmacies. The selection came "at the same time state and federal regulators were investigating New England Compounding Center for problems with sterile drug preparation."

New England Compounding Center co-owner Barry Cadden is sworn in on Capitol Hill.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
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