Are industrial pharmacists heading for extinction?

I fear that John Turner (PJ, 5/12 January, p16) may well be correct: maybe it is too late to prevent the extinction of industrial pharmacists. Moreover, within community pharmacies, even the compounding of something as simple as methadone mixture has become a rarity. Similarly, within hospital pharmacies, pharmacists interested in the manufacture of the medicines still exist but the vast majority of pharmacists are clinically oriented.

I also agree with Mr Turner that, perhaps, one way of helping to maintain a population of industrial pharmacists would be for the new professional body — that was once our Royal Pharmaceutical Society — to accept, in some capacity, pharmaceutical quality assurance professionals, non-clinical scientists and others interested in the manufacture of medicines and investigational medicinal products.

Accepting those not registered as pharmacists with the General Pharmaceutical Council may be
contentious. However, if accepted, those non-pharmacists and the more clinically oriented pharmacists could learn from and support each other.

My concern is that, otherwise, the knowledge of the manufacture of medicines within the profession of pharmacy may fade away. I made that point in 2003 (PJ, 29 March
2003, p434).

May I, as a sociologist, illustrate this situation with an analogy? Today, some Australian aboriginal tribes are reluctant to “go walkabout” in their desert. Their reason is that they have not, as caretakers, looked after their land well enough and the spirits — which are real to the tribe — have become stronger. Some of those spirits may kill travellers. My fear is that industrial knowledge among pharmacists is becoming so rare that pharmacists may lose their confidence to follow a career in the pharmaceutical industry, let alone become Qualified Persons.

Sharing the same professional body with those non-clinical, non-pharmacist medicine makers may fortify pharmacists sufficiently to venture back into making medicines. Those plucky pioneers may discover afresh that creating the actual medicines is interesting, fulfilling — and profitable.

Today, the hourly fee rate for an industrial Qualified Person is about three times higher than that for a locum community pharmacist.

Malcolm E. Brown

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, January 2008;()::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.311216

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