Maryam Jetha knew that working to improve medicines safety was her calling and, when met with obstacles on her path towards that goal, was not prepared to take no for an answer.
Jetha was first intrigued by the prospect of working in healthcare after spending a lot of time in hospital with her grandmother. She noted that the pharmacist was the link between the other members of the multidisciplinary team and she was fascinated by the drug chart at the end of the bed. “I wished I could understand it, I wanted to be able to help,” she says.
Then, while she was at university, Jetha’s interest in medicine safety was piqued by her work campaigning against fake drugs. She was student lead on University College London’s ‘Fight the Fakes’ committee. In 2018, Jetha helped organise a panel discussion bringing together experts from the World Health Organisation, Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), and the Royal Academy of Science International Trust for 150 attendees from academia, students, non-governmental organisation (NGOs), regulatory bodies and pharma start-ups to discuss the global health threat of substandard and falsified medicines.
The following year, she helped organise and took part in a World Health Assembly side event on the topic of falsified and substandard medicines.
Working as a medical affairs final signatory, who ensures that a pharmaceutical company is compliant with industry code of practice and that scientific communication is medically accurate, was not an area Jetha had any exposure to while at university. It was not until she did a four-month internship at Bristol Myers Squibb in 2019 that she was aware of what the job entailed.
Following her internship, Jetha went to Toronto for four months as an international graduate researcher, looking at innovative ways of working in community pharmacy and the role of the pharmacy technician and how they are integrated into the team. When she came back, she completed a hospital preregistration placement at Barts Health NHS Trust in 2020/2021. When a graduate scheme in medical affairs back at Bristol Myers Squibb opened, she jumped at the chance.
Despite being new to medical signatory training at this stage in her career, let alone be certified, she persisted. “I was just drawn to it, patient safety feels like my purpose in whatever I do.”
That determination paid off and her team saw that her ideas could make a difference, so they gave her more responsibility.
Once certified in 2022, she was able to guide teams to ensure they were acting with integrity, ethics and compliance in their daily roles and was increasingly aware of the challenges that new starters and signatories face when practically applying their knowledge of the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry code of practice. In response, she created innovative code training resources, including podcasts and fortnightly ‘code clubs’ to not only upskill herself but also share with all employees. It has proven incredibly popular and is now in its second year, with people volunteering to present an industry code case and highlighting how it impacts healthcare professionals and patients.
“It is an open forum to bring everyone in the office together and we talk through a particular [industry code] case,” she explains. “I also wanted to highlight that compliance was a collective responsibility for all employees.” Jetha no longer manages the logistics of code clubs but its legacy continues.
Her current role as a medical signatory has absolutely lived up to her expectations and she is just as passionate about compliance as she was when she asked to do the training. “I want to continue to ensure patients are safe. It is not about saying you can’t do this but finding ways to do something so we can make it better for healthcare professionals and ultimately patients.”
“Maryam is a role model for other Muslim women of colour, trailblazing a path for others in the pharmaceutical industry. Maryam has led on greater collaboration working with pharmacy technicians, recognising the value and contribution of the whole pharmacy team.”
“An innovative approach to falsified medicines. Maryam has started impacting the world of medicines at a very early stage of her career.”
- Meet the rest of The Pharmaceutical Journal’s Women to Watch 2023 here