What is regulatory affairs?It can take 10-12 years for a medicine to progress through the entire development process, from laboratory to clinic. Throughout this process, and even after a new medicine reaches the market, there are huge amounts of legislation in place to ensure the treatment is as safe and efficacious as possible. Regulatory affairs, as its name suggests, encompasses all of the regulatory protocols surrounding a medicines development, and ensures these are adhered to at each stage of development.
Back to top
A career in regulatory affairsIn order to obtain a Product License professionals working in regulatory affairs must keep track of the ever-changing legislation around drug development processes, and ensure the correct procedures are followed. This requires coordinating with many teams across all stages of development, such as research and development groups, clinical trial groups and legal teams, which means working with people from a huge variety of backgrounds. Depending on the country a medicine is to be marketed in, regulatory affairs professionals will need to keep up-to-date with the different legislation for various countries, and adhere to their requirements. Once a product has been licensed for marketing, the next step is to coordinate with physicians in medical affairs to ensure the promotional material for that medicine is medically accurate, and in line with its Product License.
Working in regulatory affairs can therefore be fast-paced and high pressure, due to the regulatory landscape continually changing. However, it also provides a holistic view of a medicine's development, and the opportunity to work with a diverse group of professionals. Regulatory affairs may also be a rewarding career – as the work helps ensure safe medicines are produced, and focuses on patient well-being.
Back to top
Qualifications and trainingA Life Sciences degree is essential for a career in regulatory affairs, as the work requires an understanding of the science behind developing a medicine, and the ability to communicate this knowledge to various audiences.
To enter the regulatory affairs profession, a graduate may have to hold another role within the pharmaceutical industry, prior to their first regulatory affairs role. This is due to the fact there are few work experience opportunities within regulatory affairs, although some consulting companies may have in house training courses. However, there is a benefit to working within industry; these roles provide additional knowledge and understanding of the drug development process, which is essential in regulatory affairs. Thus, initial industry roles are a useful foundation for those looking to enter regulatory affairs.
The Organisation for Professionals in Regulatory Affairs (TOPRA) has post-graduate qualifications available in partnership with universities, which may be an alternative option for those wishing to specialise in regulatory affairs. For those currently at university studying life sciences, TOPRA's Careers Fair may provide additional information and opportunities relating to regulatory affairs. Also useful for university students are Industrial research placements, which many courses now offer as sandwich years. An example of a regulatory affairs industrial placement can be found here.
TOPRA also has a useful Careers site for those wishing to learn more about regulatory affairs, the site includes links to case studies from regulatory affairs professionals.
I have much firmer career plans now that I have completed a placement year, and working in a large organisation has opened my eyes to the breadth of roles that are available in the pharmaceutical industry.