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Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine


Pharmaceutical Medicine

Pharmaceutical medicine is the scientific discipline concerned with the discovery, development, evaluation, registration, monitoring and medical aspects of marketing of medicines for the benefit of patients and the health of the community. Pharmaceutical medicine has been recognised formally in the UK as a full specialty since 2002 but Physicians have been involved in one or more parts of this process for as long as medicines have been developed and the role of doctors has evolved over the last century alongside the specialty itself.  In the UK today, over 1200 pharmaceutical physicians work in the Pharmaceutical Industry, within a strict legal and regulatory framework, and also take a lead in the application of professional codes of medical governance. Further information on pharmaceutical medicine can be sought via the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine and the British Association of Pharmaceutical Physicians.

The Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine

The Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine (FPM) of the Royal Colleges’ of Physicians aims to maintain the highest professional standards in the specialty through activities such as the setting of the Diploma in Pharmaceutical Medicine and other examinations and supervising specialty training in pharmaceutical medicine. The FPM is a professional membership organisation with approximately 1,400 members who are practising or retired pharmaceutical physicians or those with a professional interest in the speciality. Approximately 35% of Faculty members are based outside the United Kingdom. The Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine's mission is to advance the science and practice of pharmaceutical medicine by working to develop and maintain competence, ethics and integrity and the highest professional standards in the specialty for the benefit of the public. The Faculty seeks, through its activities, to bring about an improvement in the health of the public. For more information visit the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine's website.

The British Association of Pharmaceutical Physicians (BrAPP)

BrAPP is a professional association for medically qualified doctors who work for, or on behalf of, the pharmaceutical industry. It is a subscription based organisation which has close links with the FPM and the University of Cardiff, with which it jointly organises a post-graduate course in pharmaceutical medicine. For more information visit the British Assiciation of Pharmaceutical Physician's website.

Careers in Pharmaceutical Medicine

Careers in pharmaceutical medicine encompass three main areas: those working in pharmaceutical companies, those working in clinical research organisations and those with within medicines regulatory agencies. The largest employer of pharmaceutical physicians in the UK are pharmaceutical companies, which range in size and scale from very large companies such as Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline to very small start-up organisations with just one product in development. Physician roles within the industry can range across virtually all disciplines but generally fall into either Medical Affairs or Research roles. Irrespective of the type of role most companies recognise the value of having well trained and capable people within the organisation and invest in the development of their staff.

Medical Affairs:
By providing healthcare professionals, regulatory agencies, advocacy groups, and professional organisations with medical and scientific information and education, the Medical Affairs function enhances sales and marketing efforts and complements the work of Research & Development, to promote evidence based use of medicines for the benefit of patients and healthcare professionals. These roles provide a bridge between research and development and commercial operations through leadership of and input into medical communications, clinical studies, outcomes research and disease management programs.

Research and Development:
R&D encompasses very early, lab-based drug discovery, pre-clinical assessment and clinical testing of potential medicines. Most physician roles are involved in drug development, which includes the design and conduct of phase I-IV clinical trials that are required to assess whether any potential medicine has the necessary profile to be approved by regulatory agencies, reimbursed by healthcare payers and fulfil an unmet medical need.

Entry into Pharmaceutical Medicine

Entry level roles will not require previous pharmaceutical medicine experience but most employers will look for a reasonable level of clinical experience.  The FPM recommends that entrants have successfully completed a minimum of four years postgraduate clinical training in approved training posts. It is not possible to undertake specialty training in the pharmaceutical medicine without this. Some roles may also require a higher medical qualification, such as MRCP, MRCS or FRCA , this will depend on the candidate, role and employer. For information and advice about previous clinical experience, potential entrants to the specialty are encouraged to contact the FPM.

Most employers will post vacancies on their web sites and in medical journals such as the BMJ and many also use recruitment agencies and internet channels such as LinkedIn. For information about recruitment please contact BrAPP.

Once into the pharmaceutical industry, many companies will offer career and professional development. Some of this will be internally organised, with the help of externally run courses and the curriculum for specialty training in pharmaceutical medicine serves as a structure to guide and formalise the training with the aim of achieving specialist accreditation in pharmaceutical medicine. The main route to obtaining specialist registration in pharmaceutical medicine is by undertaking Pharmaceutical Medicine Specialty Training, for more information, visit the FPM web site.

The purpose of specialty training in Pharmaceutical Medicine is to produce accredited pharmaceutical physicians, who are equipped with specialist knowledge and comprehensive skills and competencies to practise to the highest ethical and professional standards, for the benefit and safety of patients and the public, in the development and maintenance of medicines.

In summary, pharmaceutical medicine is a specialty that has played a pivotal role in bringing medicines to patients to address areas of unmet clinical need for many years but has, in recent years, become more formalised and structured in terms of professional and educational development. The formalisation of the discipline as a recognised medical specialty and the implementation of specialty training have helped existing and potential pharmaceutical physicians to plan their careers and maintain the highest professional standards. These changes have added to the main attraction of pharmaceutical medicine, which is the ability to work in a challenging and dynamic environment, which is different to clinical medicine but still requires the skills and competencies of a physician with the benefit of helping thousand or even millions of patients by bringing valuable medicines to the patients who need them most.

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