Pharmaceutical careers for doctors

In training, you may only have considered being an NHS or private sector physician, as little exposure to industry careers is offered in medical schools. However, your skills, training and medical knowledge are invaluable in the pharmaceutical industry.

Pharmaceutical companies invest huge amounts of time and money into the research, development, manufacturing and marketing of new medicines. From laboratory to clinic, the drug development process considers how the medicine affects whole body physiology, the practical aspects of delivering the medicine to patients, and the necessary interactions with regulatory authorities. Pharmaceutical physicians are involved across the whole process of drug development, and are employed in medical​ and regulatory affairs roles, in clinical research positions, and as independent consultants.

It is, therefore, no exaggeration to suggest that physicians in industry may impact more patient lives, and have more influence over the way a medicine will be used, than an individual prescribing doctor. Whilst training as a doctor, you will have gained a broad knowledge and skills base necessary to aid the transition of medicines from laboratory to clinic. This knowledge will help you provide an essential service to the pharmaceutical industry, where there is a need for pharmaceutical physicians. 

Hi I’m Dr Juliet Roberts I’ve been asked to answer a few questions about a career in pharmaceutical industries so first question I’ve been asked is why did I choose the pharmaceutical industry actually it was a little bit unintended I was busy working as a hospital doctor in oxford at the time as a medical registrar it was around the time that specialty training was coming in and out of the blue I got a call from a head-hunter would I be interested in joining the pharmaceutical industry and doing cardiology and clinical trials as a medical student I’ve always been interested in pharmacology um I did that attachment as a as a medical student and was really interested in the cardiology space as well so I joined a medium-sized pharmaceutical company 24 years ago and actually after that time never looked back and I’ve had a variety of roles.


So the next question - what is my current role what do I do so I’m now with my second company who I joined in May after 24 years at my previous company my current job title is senior clinical development director and within that I’m involved in a project we've got a new drug and an indication it's just finishing off its phase three trials in the adult program so we're looking to submit to the regulatory authorities and hopefully the drug will come into the market next year in a real unmet medical need area I’m also leading the paediatric development so it's really important when we develop new drugs for adults we also generate the level of data robust data in a paediatric population in particular we get the right dosing and that's very much a now a regulatory requirement within that I lead the design of our clinical trials to generate robust efficacy and safety data.


Okay so next question what are the roles that can be done within the pharmaceutical industry I think first thing to say like clinical medicine there's so many different areas that you can go and work in so huge amount of choice and I’m going to mention some roles but I’m probably only scratching the surface of some of them that you can do if you're really into early translational medicine so bench scientific research then early discovery is the place for you working with some really skilled scientists identifying those targets for new drug development you can work in a phase one unit so be a clinical investigator for our new drugs or you can like me the role I’m currently doing work in later space clinical development so decided the clinical child program to generate the evidence for the efficacy and safety of a new drug or a current existing drug but in a new indication it's really important that we have physicians monitoring the safety of our products the whole time and you can go into the pharmacovigilance or drug safety space also into the regulatory space and I’m sure you've seen all the interactions with the MHRA on the COVID vaccines and these are our industry bodies but pharmaceutical physicians work within the MHRA as well as well as working in the companies within pharmaceuticals and regulatory it's really important that we provide robust scientific evidence-based medicines about our products and lots of physicians also work within the medical affairs space making sure that our promotion of medicines and the scientific information we give about our licensed products is ethical and robust so medical affairs is another area people working but as I say like clinical medicine so much choice and then within that you may specialize within a certain disease area so within oncology or within a subtype of oncology or above or across all the therapeutic areas you can really choose to specialise.


So why become a pharmaceutical position why join the pharmaceutical industry I i think probably for me a key thing is you really can make a difference in whichever area you work in you will be making a difference to help evidence-based medicine progress to help treatment options for patients so I work in the development space I think it's really satisfying that I’m going to be working on a drug or I’m working on a drug which will hopefully come to market soon and there's a real unmet need for it it's so fundamentally important that everything we do as clinical doctors prescribing for our patients managing our patients is based on good solid evidence very much in industry you partner with clinical doctors still working in the hospitals key opinion leaders because we need to design the best possible trials for our products we need to provide the best possible information so if you're joining industry it does not mean you've got to be in one camp or the other I still see patients and I think also that really helps me put my work in industry into practice.


So what piece of advice would I give to someone wanting to go into the pharmaceutical industry I think I’d probably say three things number one if you're close to getting your CCT in your area or specialization then I’d probably say see that through first before you join industry because it always gives you something to go back on I think second thing if you do like seeing patients joining the industry does not mean to say that you have to give that up I still see patients once a week I do a cardiology clinic and I’ve managed to maintain a clinical attachment for pretty much all my time in industry bar a few years for good behaviour when I had children third thing is I would say pharmaceutical medicine is a GMC recognized speciality itself and I would very much encourage you to do the diploma in pharmaceutical medicine because I think that gives you the whole breadth of the pharmaceutical medicine curriculum and also complete the specialist training within pharmaceutical medicine because again a bit like when you were a junior doctor and did various different specialities I think that really helps give you exposure to all the elements out there in the pharmaceutical industry and then that will help you choose which avenue you want to go down.

Hi I'm Gary Solomons and I work at Boehringer Ingelheim. I'm a GP by training and I joined the pharmaceutical industry approximately 18 months ago I moved into the industry to find out more about what is involved within a pharmaceutical company and I was keen to learn a bit more about drug development how the commercial aspect of business works because my only previous experience of the pharmaceutical industry was meeting medical representatives.


So I'm a medical advisor in cardio metabolism what does that mean it means I work within diabetes and a bit within cardiology and I oversee a specific drug with regards to clinical data being generated medical education talking within the different teams within the company and also discussing diabetes with experts in the field.


So there are a number of different roles that are available for pharmaceutical physicians apart from working within medical affairs which is where my role is you can work within the regulatory affairs department that looks at generally drug regulation and working alongside the MHRA you can work within patient safety so ensuring that the drugs that are being developed and go out into the market are safe to use and constant monitoring of safety data as that comes in you can also work within clinical development early stage development of drugs before they actually reach the market.


Well the reason I would go into the pharmaceutical industry would be because it's a challenge it's an interesting area to work in and it's something that a doctor can easily transfer their skills from clinical practice into a different setting I'm a GP by background and I still continue to work as a GP but I am able to use my skills of communication and negotiation within the role that I oversee.


If I wanted to give some advice to someone who is considering a role as a pharmaceutical physician I would strongly recommend that they get in touch with someone they may know or a friend who works within the industry and it does not really matter which role particularly I think certainly talking to someone with medical affairs where I work but actually it does not specifically matter where that area is and I think what is most important is to talk to as many people as possible just to get an idea.


Pharmaceutical Careers Resources for Physicians:

Last modified: 20 September 2023

Last reviewed: 20 September 2023