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This series of posts gives ideas about what opportunities new graduates can find in pharmaceutical industry. Pharmaceutical Industry is a large industry; it employs a fair number of people in various departments.
We may think that Pharmacists and Pharmaceuticals probably have the oldest relationship, but it is not true. Chemists were in the vanguard for developing, refining, and producing pharmaceutical products starting in the 19th century, or even earlier. Use of natural medicines goes back several thousand years, but this was done by the people who were physicians and chemists and pharmacist at the same time.
The first formal education of pharmacy was started in 1821 when Philadelphia College of Pharmacy was established in the US. It was established by doctors who thought that some people should be trained to dispense medicines prescribed by the doctors.
The earliest pharmaceutical production units were established by the chemists, chemical corporations, and some doctors. Pharmacists came later, and even now, pharmacist-owned pharmaceutical companies are in a minority. In several cases, some children from second or third generation of entrepreneurs already running pharmaceutical business may opt to study pharmacy.
Pharmacy education in the sub-continent started in 1870 at the Madras medical college. Formal training of compounders/ dispensers was initiated in 1881 in Bengal and the first professional Bachelor of Pharmacy program was started in 1937 at Banaras Hindu university. After partition, University of the Punjab was the first to start a pharmacy department in 1948. It was a three-year program which was extended to four years in 1978-79. In 2005, it was further upgraded to five years Pharm-D program which is now the standard. The Pharmacy Act was passed in 1967 under which Pharmacy Council of Pakistan – PCP was established. Currently, all pharmacy graduates must register with the PCP to become eligible for pharmacy practice. As of 2021, 17 public and 22 private universities had gained recognition for pharmacy education. In addition, 109 institutes have received NOC for teaching pharmacy courses, but they will have to be affiliated with some recognized university so that their students could get recognizable degrees..
Pakistan Pharmacists Association is the recognized professional, representative body of pharmacists. It was probably formed in mid-late 1970s by Dr. Naim Anwar Muzaffar, who was teaching at the University of Punjab, and was later its head of the department. On its website Pakistan Pharmacist Association (ppapak.org.pk), PPA lists 47 achievements since 2007, and it is true. PPA has done a wonderful job in getting pharmacists recognized at various levels, and more importantly, in creating jobs for them.
Pharmacists have a wide array of options to choose from, but I shall restrict this discussion to their roles in pharma industry.
Production – Pharma production must employ pharmacists by law. They supervise various production sections, run the in-process controls, and ensure that the production is done as per the SOPs. Although the training at pharmacy schools is rather basic and not relevant to actual production needs, therefore, fresh graduates must undergo training under an experienced pharmacist. The career for pharmacists in production is a promising one; they can hope to continuously learn and grow.
Quality Operations – Quality Assurance is usually dominated by pharmacists. QA is responsible for making guidelines, policies, and procedures, and for the compliance of these. It is a very responsible role that has evolved greatly and is still evolving. QA people must keep themselves updated to stay on top of the requirements. QA jobs are interesting, learning and growing.
Documentation – Pharmacists almost solely dominate documentation, which has truly evolved and changed itself completely; the process is continuing. During any plant inspection internationally, almost 80% time is spent on documentation review. It is usually part of QA and includes Validation studies, Annual Product Reviews, compliance to GMP, GLP, GSP, Out of Specification studies, Out of Trends studies, Batch Manufacturing Records, Batch Recalls, and more. Pharmacists can gain knowledge of international standard if they apply themselves.
Warehousing – A pharmacist is required by law to supervise warehouse and its working. She/he has to ensure compliance to regulations, supervise dispensing and maintain all records. Warehouse jobs may not have a big career within themselves, but one could get into other roles from here.
R&D – Research and Development in Pakistan pharma industry is limited to formulation development of generic products. This is exclusive domain for pharmacists. The larger companies are now very focused on R&D and the positions for pharmacists have grown in number and seniority.
Regulatory Affairs – another exclusive domain for pharmacists. Development of CTD dossiers requires close working with R&D and QC, along with the supply chain. The RA has also grown in stature and offers lucrative career opportunity.
Business Development – In-licensing, Contact Manufacturing, Toll Manufacturing, Dealing with Contract Manufacturers, finding new products, identifying new, potential additions, line extensions etc. are all clubbed under business development. Pharmacist fit very well here, though it may not be their exclusive domain.
Marketing – Pharmacists can claim a place in brand management. Many pharmacists have added a business degree to their education and have become highly eligible for marketing jobs. Once here, they can hope to grow to the top. Marketing offers the most competitive, and the most lucrative openings.
Sales – Long time back, the MNCs preferred to hire pharmacists for sales jobs. It changed due to high turnover because pharmacists got more interesting opportunities. Lately, they are again preferred for specialty sales like anticancer drugs, transplant drugs, or other therapies which require robust medical and pharmacological knowledge. These are well paying jobs and offer a good career track.
In summary, pharmacists can look forward to making bright careers in pharma industry.
To be Continued……
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