Katherine Hlusak says she is still living with the consequences of a dose of tainted pain medication she received in 2012, so the Brooklyn Park woman still feels injustice — even though the Massachusetts pharmacist who compounded the drug was sentenced this week to nine years in prison.
“Life isn’t fair,” said Hlusak, who suffered stroke symptoms three weeks after she received a tainted injectable steroid. “But this man is evil as far as I’m concerned.”
Barry Cadden, owner of the defunct New England Compounding Center, was sentenced Monday for what one law enforcement official described as “one of the worst public health crises in this country’s history.”
Evidence indicated that Cadden authorized the compounding of medications in unsanitary conditions with expired ingredients, and the bulk dispensing of those medications without valid prescriptions. Fictional names on the center’s prescriptions included Michael Jackson, according to court records.
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention identified 753 patients, including 12 in Minnesota, who suffered fungal infections after receiving tainted injections. Sixty-four patients died — none in Minnesota — while others suffered meningitis and other health problems. (The Minnesota Department of Health lowered its final tally to 11 after sorting out patients whose symptoms might have been unrelated.)
Hlusak, 77, received her injection for back pain at Medical Advanced Pain Specialists, the only practice in Minnesota implicated in the case. Whether she was one of Minnesota’s official cases is unclear — state officials couldn’t publicly confirm patients’ identities — but she was acknowledged as a victim in a personal legal settlement against the pharmacy.
Hlusak suffered a variety of symptoms after her 2012 injection, and three weeks later awoke in confusion and panic. The symptoms from an apparent stroke resulted in extended hospital and nursing home stays, followed by three months of therapy to regain speech and mobility.
Hlusak still struggles to find the right words and think quickly. On the other hand, she said she is a “tough German” who is able to exercise again and stay fit.
“Horrible things have happened to people,’’ she said. “Considering all this, I’m very fortunate.”