Mortality Among Workers Employed in the Pharmaceutical Industry: A Preliminary Investigation

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Abstract

The cause-specific mortality experience of 826 plant employees and 249 sales representatives employed by a large U.S. pharmaceutical firm was examined to determine if there were unusual patterns of fatal disease that might relate to factors in the work environment. Deaths that occurred between 1954 and 1976 among actively employed or retired workers were identified through company records and a proportionate mortality analysis was carried out using the total U.S. as a standard. PMRs were computed for male and for female workers and for several broad occupational categories. A significant difference between observed and expected mortality from suicide was present in both males and females and there was an indication that drug overdoses were over-represented. PMRs for several cancer sites were elevated, but excesses were not always confined to particular occupational categories. Excesses of respiratory cancer were present in male maintenance workers and in female production workers. Increased relative frequencies of melanoma among males and of leukemia among females were confined to the production worker category. Some of the findings may provide leads for further investigations of the pharmaceutical industry.

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