The Transition into Pharmaceutical Medicine
A Career in Pharma...
Pharmaceutical medicine is the medical speciality focused on the discovery, development, assessment, registration and safe use of medicines. The specialism encompasses the translation of new drug compounds into both safe and effective medicines for use in the human population. This process extends into the pharmaceutical marketplace by ensuring thorough regulation, through product registration and then promotion and advertising. Pharmaceutical medicine can be a rewarding place for a physician to build a career. Pharmaceutical Physicians can find themselves working in pharmaceutical, biotechnology and clinical research organisations, as well as regulatory bodies and academic institutions. Ordinarily, when you start in the industry you’ll find yourself in a role in medical affairs, clinical research or drug safety. Roles can vary from focused localised drug development processes and product launches, through to much larger-scale regional and global activities.
Sometimes, Pharmaceutical Physicians will have little to no form of direct patient contact. Despite this, the products and medicines that they contribute to can affect the lives of millions of people across the globe. The following pages will, in simplistic form, act as a step-by-step guide; describing the nature of each of the most common starting roles in industry, the typical day-to-day duties, and the longer term career path/opportunities available within pharmaceutical medicine.
Entry into the Industry
When recruiting physicians from clinical medicine or academic backgrounds, the vast majority of employers within the pharmaceutical industry will ask for certain entry criteria to be met. In the UK for example, these criteria usually look like the following:
- Medically qualified
- Full GMC registration with a License to Practice
- A minimum of 4 years post
- Qualification clinical experience is highly recommended
- A higher scientific degree (e.g. MSc or PhD) or business qualification (e.g. MBA) may be considered an advantage for certain roles
- Specific and in-depth therapy area expertise may be required for certain roles
Retaining a License to Practice is not compulsory. However, for revalidation purposes (in order to remain fully GMC registered as a UK Pharmaceutical Physician), many employers require physicians to maintain their license and most will endorse and support revalidation financially.