PHARMACEUTICAL company Catalent has been ordered to hand over more than £100,000 after employees developed an irreversible skin disease while at work.

Catalent U.K. Swindon Zydis Limited, which was trading as Catalent Pharma Solutions, based on Frankland Road, Blagrove, was prosecuted by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after ten employees, including John Renicks, John Clifford and Ian Thorne, developed allergic contact dermatitis while working with Olanzapine.

The substance is an active ingredient in one of the most commonly prescribed antipsychotic drugs and is a known cause of allergic contact dermatitis.

After the company pleaded guilty to four charges under the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations and the Health and Safety at Work Act, they were ordered to pay a fine of £50,000 plus £50,123.10 in costs.

Swindon magistrates heard that, although Olanzapine had been identified by the company as the potential cause of previous cases of dermatitis, it failed to carry out an immediate review of its risk assessment as required by law.

Instead, a thorough review was only started in February 2008 after two cases of allergic contact dermatitis had been confirmed on October 19 2007 and December 3 2007 and the HSE had visited the company.

The court heard how, during the HSE’s investigation, a further eight employees were confirmed to have allergic contact dermatitis as a result of being in contact with Olanzapine.

HSE inspector, Joanna Knight, said: “Catalent UK Swindon Zydis failed to address the inadequacies not only in its systems for working with hazardous substances, but also in its systems for health surveillance and keeping health records.

“This led to a number of employees being exposed to the substance and subsequently developing allergic contact dermatitis.

“This is an uncomfortable and irreversible condition, which can cause the skin to crack and bleed, and could have been completely avoided had Catalent taken the time to review its risk assessment.”

A spokesman for Catalent said: “Employee safety is a top priority for Catalent Pharma Solutions. We take health and safety incidents at any of our facilities very seriously and are committed to taking every possible action to ensure the safety and well-being of our employees.

“We deeply regret that ten employees at our Swindon, UK, facility, which employs more than 500 people, experienced adverse dermatologic affects from exposure to one of the ingredients used in the manufacturing process of a medical product. We are working closely with the affected employees to ensure the provision of proper medical care and the appropriate management of their conditions.

“Catalent has fully cooperated with the UK Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and has implemented all recommended engineering and procedural improvements to safeguard our employees’ health.

“These actions include significant changes in oversight and monitoring of employee health and safety. The facility is now compliant with all applicable health and safety regulations. We regret any duress this incident may have caused to our employees and their families.” Catalent announced in 2009 that it would be shedding 275 jobs from it’s 900-strong workforce in the town over the next two years and then in October this year, it confirmed that a further 50 jobs on top of this figure would also be lost.

The company produces in excess of a billion tablets a year from the Swindon factory.