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I am starting this series of posts in which I shall give ideas about what opportunities new graduates can find in pharmaceutical industry. The need has been identified by ‘Scientific Pakistan’, an organization which is supporting the youth in developing their skills and securing their future.
Pharmaceutical Industry is a large industry; it employs a large number of people in various departments. There are upward of 800 manufacturing units of various sizes. Pakistani people consume about 1,000 billion rupees worth of medicines in a year, the money spent on supplements and health products is not included, neither is the cost of hospitalization added here. Another way of looking at the size of the industry is that it produces around 4 billion packs of tablets, capsules, syrups, injections and so on. Healthcare is the need of every household and medicines are found accordingly.
Graduation, or bachelor’s degree now takes four years to complete. This is the new world order. When I was a student, it took two years. Either the studies have become too big, or the students have become too dull to need four years, but the effect is that they stay bachelor for longer – pun intended.
After 19 years of education starting from Playgroup, when the young men and women come into their own, and search jobs, the confusion starts. Professional degrees used to be different because they knew what their destination was. Lately, even that is not so. Doctors, engineers, lawyers, pharmacists, and others are either not finding adequate jobs, or do not have enough interest in pursuing one. They are opting for jobs away from their course of studies. Anyway, it is a separate topic as to why it is happening. I shall talk about it in a separate post.
Pharmaceutical Industry offers opportunities for several disciplines and through these posts, I shall identify those for various graduates. Today, we shall talk about ‘Sciences’.
Sciences are generally divided into four branches: formal sciences – mathematics and logic; natural sciences – related to earth’s natural resources, physics, chemistry, cosmology; biological sciences – also termed as life sciences; and social sciences – related to studies of human behavior, psychology, management and so on.
Some of the above have direct application in pharma industry. Life sciences or biological sciences are an obvious fit and we shall talk about it later. We shall also talk about computers and digital space. Today, we talk about Chemistry.
Chemistry qualified people join pharma industry mainly in quality operations. Quality operations are now subdivided into four branches: Quality Control, Quality Assurance, Environment Control, and Health & Safety. Newer ISO certifications, ISO 14001 and ISO 450001 have emerged along with Green Initiatives and OHSAS.
Most chemists enter Quality Control which is dominated by them and where pharmacists do not compete with them. Quality control department performs the following functions.
- Analysis of all incoming materials – Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients, excipients used in formulations, all packaging materials, other chemicals, glass, gases etc.
- Pharmacopeias – US, British, European, Japanese are the standard guiding references against which materials are tested and approved
- For non-pharmacopeial materials, either internal standards are set, or the manufacturers’ standards are followed
- No material can be used without clearance from QC
- Analysis of products at various stages of manufacturing
- Next stage cannot be initiated without QC clearance
- Analysis of finished products
- Goods are not released for sale/dispatch unless cleared by QC
QC therefore has a critical role in pharmaceutical manufacturing.
Quality control now uses advanced, state-of-the-art equipment, such as:
- HPLC – High Performance Liquid Chromatography
- UPLC – Ultra-High Performance Liquid Chromatography
- Gas Chromatography
- TOC – Total Organic Carbon
- AAS – Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer
- Several other equipments used in routine
Basically, QC does a lot of analysis, and the entire operation is dependent upon their analytical results.
What do you need to do to get a job in QC department in Pharma, and in several other industries where quality control is integral?
- Universities have lot of expensive, high-tech equipment which is purchased mostly from project grants. Be the first to request that you be taught how to use it. Learn it diligently and develop as much skill as you can.
- Strengthen analytical mind. Experiments help a lot, do them faithfully. Most students take experiment time as leisure time, rather than study.
- Seek internships in Pharma during studies. Take help from your teachers who would recommend you to various industries.
- Read about pharma industry and quality control guidelines
- Make a profile on LinkedIn and connect with industry professionals
These measures shall greatly help you to get into Pharma industry with a degree in chemistry. Once you are in, then you can carve a decent career for yourself over the years. Quality control is a set of skills which will stay with you and benefit you for very long.
To be Continued……
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