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Michiana victims react to NECC owner's sentencing in fungal meningitis case

The owner of the New England Compounding Center that caused the nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak in 2012 was sentenced to nine years for racketeering Monday. Some victims in Michiana say nine is better than nothing.

“You kind of had to face at one particular point the notion that you very possibly could die from this, and it was hard. It was very hard,” said Terri Rethlake, a survivor of the outbreak.

In October 2012, St. Joseph County clerk Terri Rethlake, became one of the eventual 753 victims in 20 states who became sick with painful fungal meningitis from a tainted steroid injection.

“They have the chart between one and ten. It was past the ten point, way past the ten point,” said Rethlake.

While she doesn’t experience this level of pain every day anymore, she says she still has lasting effects from the meningitis.

Don Florea’s mother, Pauline Burema, a Cassopolis native, became one of three folks from Michiana to die because of the drug.

“She was what I consider one of the lucky ones,” said Florea.

Two other victims who died in Michiana are Alice Machowiak and Kathy Dillon.

According to the Center for Disease Control, 64 total patients in nine states died.

ABC news is reporting that number has risen.

“It’s hard to imagine in this day of error-day that this could happen,” said Florea.

The New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts manufactured and distributed the tainted shots knowingly, according to the Department of Justice.

As of Monday, the owner, 50-year-old Barry Cadden, is being held accountable.

He was sentenced to nine years for racketeering.

“At least it’s nine years…It’s probably not in my mind enough, but at least it’s something,” said Rethlake.

“Who says that this is the final trial, you know will they keep going to trial again and again and again, and will he ever end up in jail?” said Florea.

Terri says Cadden owes all the victims more than jail time.

“I think he needs to own up to what he did and make a sincere apology to everyone that he put profits ahead of people,” said Rethlake.

The supervisory pharmacist who ran the clean room where the drugs were made, Glenn Chin, is scheduled to go on trial in September.

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