Doing well for patients … together
Student pharmacists often hear about career options in either the community or hospital/institutional settings. But one option that is often overlooked is pursuing a career within the pharmaceutical industry. There are many opportunities within this industry, including clinical research, pharmacovigilance, regulatory affairs, marketing, and medical affairs. Pharmacists have active roles within the pharmaceutical industry designing and monitoring clinical trials, conducting and assessing pharmacovigilance, participating in regulatory affairs and governing bodies, and creating and evaluating marketing materials and strategies. Within the medical affairs arena, pharmacists are commonly engaged as therapeutic area strategy leads, medical science liaisons, and
medical information specialists.
On September 17, representatives from phactMI presented a webinar as part of the APhA Career Opportunities Series. The webinar focused on pharmaceutical industry careers, the role of medical information services, and phactMI. This article will provide further information on this practice setting and detail the many routes to entry into a pharmaceutical industry career.
Just the facts
As medical information specialists within a pharmaceutical company, pharmacists and other health professionals respond to unsolicited requests for medical information from physicians, fellow pharmacists, nurses, and other health care providers. The responses that medical information specialists provide, usually in the form of a scientific response document (SRD), are evidence-based, unbiased, scientifically balanced, accurate, timely, and non-promotional. These documents are based on scientific data and not opinion, are specific to the question being asked, and are well-referenced.
It is important to understand that the information a medical information specialist provides is based on the facts and related citations but does not provide clinical treatment recommendations or advice. The resources used to create these documents include, but are not limited to, prescribing information; medical literature databases such as Medline and EMBASE; published clinical trials or other articles; textbooks; congressional websites; clinical trial registries; safety reports; and internal databases and data on file. These documents are revised at least annually or biannually, and undergo an internal review process.
For student pharmacists, it is important to realize that medical information services from pharmaceutical companies can be a valuable resource for finding useful information during rotations, or in clinical practice post-graduation. While use of standard online compendia is widespread, in a 2016 survey of five common resources, the errors found in the compendia were categorized as incomplete, inaccurate, or omitted information. Therefore, it is important to always double-check the information and look for additional resources.
It is critical to understand the difference between medical information services and information provided by the commercial side of the pharmaceutical industry. The commercial side, represented by marketing and sales representatives, can only provide information based on the product labeling. Medical information specialists, as well as other medical affairs personnel, can
provide information specific to the question being asked—even if it goes beyond the product labeling—provided there is enough available information to support the response.
phactMI is a nonprofit collaboration of medical information leaders from more than 30 prominent and innovative pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical companies. The mission of phactMI is to develop cross-company initiatives that provide health care professionals with access to the medical information they need to make informed decisions and improve patient outcomes.
The Code of Practice for medical information developed by phactMI is centered on three core elements: clinical and pharmaceutical expertise, scientific balance of medical responses, and quality standards. The main focus of phactMI is to communicate the value of medical information to health care providers and other customers; enhance awareness of, and additional exposure to, a broad base of medical information content, capabilities, and thinking; provide tools and solutions to enable greater access to company-developed medical information content; and provide opportunities to standardize, innovate, and elevate medical information practices.
Training typically consists of elective APPEs in the pharmaceutical industry or competitive internships. Advanced postgraduate training includes residencies and industry fellowships. Many of these programs are associated with an academic partner, including the Rutgers Institute for Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowship, the Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences Biopharmaceutical Industry Fellowships, the USciences Pharmaceutical Industry and Education Fellowship Program, and the USC Pharmaceutical Industry Fellowship. In addition, phactMI offers a unique 2-year fellowship, where the fellow spends a year with medical information services at a partner company, followed by a second year working with the organization’s management and executive members from various pharmaceutical companies, where the fellow will spearhead one to two projects.
The phactMI website, at www.phactMI.org, provides a free, single port of entry and was built to address health care providers’ growing need for transparent medical information. The site offers searchable access to medical information for more than 1,000 medications through a single point of access. It enables access to the most current information provided by member companies and allows users to submit a medical inquiry directly to a member company. The site will also allow health care providers to search the SRDs from member companies. Check it out today!