A sign in front of the Waverly Business Center lists the New England Compounding Center and other business owned by the Cadden and Conigliaro families. The compounding center is linked to the fatal meningitis outbreak.
KINGSTON, R.I. — The Massachusetts specialty pharmacy at the center of the deadly national outbreak of meningitis might not have existed but for a relationship that started about three decades ago on the bucolic campus of the University of Rhode Island.
Barry Cadden and Lisa Conigliaro were classmates in the school’s College of Pharmacy, two of 92 students who graduated in the class of 1990. Cadden was following a family tradition: His father was a local pharmacist and an alumnus of this state university. Conigliaro came from a family with a strong entrepreneurial bent. They would fall in love and, within a few years of graduating, marry.
It would be more than a wedding of two licensed pharmacists. A special alliance would evolve between Cadden and his wife’s older brother, Gregory Conigliaro, a go-getter with an eye for niche businesses. Together, they started New England Compounding Center in Framingham, as well as Ameridose, and turned them into some of the fastest-growing drug-compounding businesses in the country.
With Cadden’s scientific know-how and Gregory Conigliaro’s enterprising spirit, their fortunes grew. They launched a half-dozen related corporations and brought in relatives, including Lisa, as employees and corporate officers. Together with their wives, each built handsome homes in Massachusetts, bought vacation homes, and gave generously to their favorite charities or political causes.
The creative energy of the two families seemed unstoppable, until last month, when public health authorities linked an outbreak of fungal meningitis around the country to one of their injectable steroids.
Now New England Compounding is blamed for potentially exposing thousands of patients to contaminated products. So far, 19 people have died, and more than 200 people have become ill.
Cadden, 45, and Conigliaro, 46, and their extended families have declined comment since the outbreak began and have remained mainly out of public view. Many of their colleagues and friends also are not speaking. A spokesman for their businesses also declined comment Wednesday.
But public records and interviews with former employees and neighbors reveal how they created the formidable family enterprise that is now threatening to crumble.
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Early on, Conigliaro, a civil engineer who served in the Massachusetts Air National Guard, displayed talent for high-risk business ventures. His first company, though, had nothing to do with pharmaceuticals: He made his initial fortune with trash.
His first company, though, had nothing to do with pharmaceuticals: He made his initial fortune with trash.