Dr. Abraham is a senior professional of medical communications at Ortho-McNeil Janssen Scientific Affairs, LLC.
The options seem endless!All that student pharmacists needto do is to wander the aisles ofa career fair to realize that dozensof career options await themupon graduation. From communitypharmacy to nuclear pharmacy,the wide range of options is whatmakes pharmacy such an excitingcareer. Most students are aware ofthe many direct patient care opportunitiesavailable to them in ambulatorycare and community pharmacy,but what if they are seekinga more global approach to patientcare, with unique opportunitiesin business and personal development?The pharmaceutical industrycould be the right career pathfor them.
Industry holds many challengingopportunities that are wellsuited for a pharmacist. Thesecan be found in unexpectedplaces throughout a pharmaceuticalcompany. Althoughthe knowledge gained in pharmacy school may seeminglyprepare a pharmacist best for a career in clinical development,regulatory affairs, or medical information, pharmacistscan also be found in departments such as salesand finance. Although their impact on patient care maynot be immediately apparent, pharmacists working inindustry are always patient-focused, as their work bringsnew medications to patients and health care providers(HCPs). A career in medical information in particularallows pharmacists to use their scientific expertise totranslate complex scientific information into languagethat others can understand.
Medical information is an ideal placein industry for a pharmacist to putto use his or her specialized drugknowledge. All companies outlinedifferent roles for pharmacists inmedical information, but the mostbasic and most vital contribution isthat of ensuring that patients andhealth care providers have the necessaryinformation to use the company'sproducts safely and effectively.
A typical day for a pharmacist inmedical information often involvescommunicating with a health careprovider who is using the company'sproducts in clinical practice.Often, the pharmacist will be called upon to translateclinical trial data or prescribing information language inresponse to an unsolicited request for information froman HCP. This communication can be written or verbal,depending on the situation, and is always nonpromotional.
Opportunities also may exist for discussions withpatients themselves, especially for clarification of prescribinginformation or instructions for product use.Unlike traditional pharmacist?patient interactions incommunity pharmacy, a pharmacist in medical informationdoes not make treatment recommendations, as thatrole is reserved for the patient's HCP. Rather, the medicalinformation pharmacist provides scientifically based,unbiased information consistent with the appropriateuse of the product for approved indications.
Another exciting opportunity is providing coverage at medicalmeeting convention booths across the country. At thesemedical information booths, pharmacists are available tocommunicate in person with HCPs and provide answers tounsolicited product-related questions. More opportunitiesfor travel exist for pharmacists who are field-based medicalscience liaisons (MSLs). MSLs foster relationships withHCPs and collect valuable input from their clinical practiceexperience, which can be communicated to home-officebusiness partners and used to create future scientific initiativesto meet customer needs.
Medical information pharmacists are asked to join cross-functionalteams to share their product knowledge withcolleagues from other departments in the company. Thisallows for collaboration and exposure to other areas of thebusiness. An excellent example of this is involvement inpromotional review committees, where pharmacists ensurethat advertising pieces used by the company are scientificallysound and include appropriate safety information.
Many students may feel as though they do not haveenough information about opportunities available inindustry, but this does not have to be a barrier to exploringthis career path.
Most companies offer summer internships and clerkshiprotations for student pharmacists who are interestedin pursuing a career in industry. Positions are usuallyavailable for student internships and clerkships acrossdifferent departments. Pharmaceutical companies oftenpost internship positions on their company Web sites,or students could visit their career-services departmentor clerkship-rotation coordinator for more information.Postgraduate residency or fellowship programs are alsoavailable for new graduates. Many times, these postgraduateprograms are affiliated with a pharmacy school,which allows for teaching and precepting opportunities.These programs provide valuable, concentrated exposureto different areas in industry.
The pharmaceutical industry and medical informationin particular hold many opportunities for career growthand satisfaction. It is rewarding to know that, even at thebusiness level, the patient-focused perspective of a pharmacistcan really make a difference.
The author would like to thank Tiziana Fox and EricaHeverin for providing comments and support for thisarticle.