The co-owner of the Massachusetts pharmacy linked to a deadly outbreak of meningitis refused to answer lawmakers' questions Wednesday, claiming his right to not incriminate himself.
Barry Cadden, the co-owner and chief pharmacist at the New England Compounding Center that produced the contaminated drugs, repeatedly told members of Congress he would invoke his Fifth Amendment rights. The House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations subcommittee held a hearing on the meningitis outbreak, which has killed 32 people and sickened 438 people so far.
Cadden was subpoenaed by the subcommittee. House Energy and Commerce Oversight and Investigations chairman Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fl., who lost a primary race in August, said the committee was aware Cadden would plead the Fifth, but felt it was important to bring him in for questioning anyway.
“Mr. Cadden, 32 people have died,” Stearns said. “You’ve been the director of pharmacy at NECC since it opened...what explanation can you give those who have lost their loved ones,” Stearns asked.
“On the advice of counsel, I respectfully decline to answer on the basis of my constitutional rights and privileges, including the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution,” Cadden said in response Stearns' questions and several others, reading off a card.
Republicans were also tough on the Food and Drug Administration, which sent a letter to the pharmacy demanding changes to its practices in 2006 but took no further action afterwards.
Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Fred Upton, R-Mich., said he was “stunned and angered” to learn that the FDA found violations at NECC but did not follow up.
“Ten years later we’re in the midst of an unthinkable worst case scenario,” Upton said. “It is inexcusable.”