The pharmaceutical industry has a high concentration of physicians working in critical positions. Still, many clinicians are unaware of all the different career paths this sector has to offer or the structure of an established pharmaceutical corporation.
The following are a few of the duties which a pharmaceutical doctor performs:
Scientific and medical affairs
Different companies have unique job titles and job descriptions for positions in medical and scientific affairs, so make sure to check with the company they are considering. Medical advisors, medical information managers, and medical science liaisons are all standard titles that can describe positions that involve a range of responsibilities. Physicians in medical affairs are responsible for devising and implementing a comprehensive medical strategy that analyzes which medications may provide the most significant benefit to patients, addresses data gaps, and implements methods to provide meaningful research evidence for patients as soon as possible.
Understanding the deep biological, medical, and scientific characteristics of the diseases that affect us is a prerequisite for the early detection of potential future changes in how those diseases are managed. This information plays a crucial role in medical innovation and drug development, informing relevant business functions such as R&D on adapting their data generation and communication strategies to find the most effective way to generate and communicate data.
Research and development
Physicians can choose from various positions in R&D, and their choice might be determined by their preferences, research interests, and training. It can also involve testing potential new applications for current products or evaluating a product’s safety and tolerability in animal models. In preclinical and translational research, they may be interested in identifying and investigating novel molecules, molecular entities, biomarkers, or drug targets. Before applying for these positions, most preclinical researchers need at least a bachelor’s degree in medicinal chemistry, in vivo testing, or pharmacology. The initial evaluation phase of a drug or molecule might involve performing a ‘first-in-human’ trial or a dose-finding study as part of the early development phase.
The Pharmacovigilance industry – also known as drug safety – is another area where doctors play an essential role. During clinical trials or clinical practice, adverse events are gathered and monitored, and safety reports are interpreted, considering the patient’s age, gender, medication use, or other comorbidities. Safety signals are typically discussed in a global safety monitoring team (SMT), where proper action can be formulated and concerned with the health authority. An international plan is then developed to improve the safe, effective, and efficient use of medications and ensure patients’ safety around the world.
The pharmacovigilance officer also communicates information regarding adverse events, such as dose adjustments or treatment discontinuations, and potential changes to labels, such as warnings and precautions, after an adverse event is reported. Consequently, pharmacovigilance involves interactions with stakeholders, including the study’s archivist, responsible physician, healthcare professionals, patients, health authorities, data scientists, and statisticians.
A regulatory medicine department is a part of the Department of Medicine responsible for the production and submission of medical applications and supporting documents to regulatory agencies. This includes new drug applications (NDAs), marketing authorization applications (MAAs), product labels, or variations necessary to obtain or maintain a product’s marketing authorization.
The regulatory medicine department within a company is responsible for implementing a variety of regulations, such as those about compliance with good clinical practice or good pharmacovigilance practice, and providing strategic support to other departments in the company. Physicians who enjoy medical affairs tasks as part of their ‘medical affairs’ responsibilities would be well suited for a career-oriented in regulatory medicine.
Career options and other roles
The market access and commercial departments typically have strategic positions that require something of a business-savvy approach with a good deal of nonmedical knowledge (for example, health economics). These positions can contribute to a physician’s career development if they show a particular interest or talent that can be applied to the job. However, on-the-job training is usually required for these positions. These opportunities can also be considered opportunities for entry-level candidates who have previously obtained a secondary qualification in health economics or business administration. Physicians who can combine their strategic mindset with their knowledge of the complexity of healthcare delivery can also assume roles akin to those of marketing managers, supporting promotions and helping to ensure that clinical data is translated accurately into promotional claims.
A pharmaceutical physician might also choose to pursue a career path as an independent consultant to the pharmaceutical industry. The physicians who perform medical affairs, pharmacovigilance, or R&D are often experienced in the pharmaceutical industry and have many years of experience in their specific areas. Careers in this pathway can offer flexibility to experts in the field and could provide opportunities to companies with limited resources or expertise in specific therapeutic areas.
Comparison of patient care and industry
As it is evident that working in the pharmaceutical industry is very different from working with individual patients, physicians thinking about getting a position in the pharmaceutical industry should keep in mind the necessary transitional period that it might be challenging for them. However, a few things are similar between the pharmaceutical industry and patient care as well. The most striking similarity between the two fields is that physicians in both areas are committed to improving the quality of life of patients.