Sir, I was disappointed to read that the Royal Pharmaceutical Society’s informative journal, The Industrial Pharmacist, may no longer be published for financial reasons. While I appreciate the importance of the commercial bottom line, I wonder if the Council has thought through the message that it is sending — that industrial practice is not an important branch of pharmacy. I suggest that industrial pharmacy is important.
Pharmacists claim, fairly, to be the experts on medicines. The unique knowledge that pharmacy as a profession possesses includes practical experience about medicines in the community, hospital and industry. During an individual pharmacist’s career, practice in all three branches is possible. Pharmacists are involved through the complete chain including fundamental research, expert report writing, manufacturing, prescribing, dispensing, counselling and postmarketing surveillance.
However, today there is so much emphasis on the clinical aspects of medicines that manufacturing aspects seem almost sidelined. Clinical service is of real value – but so is expertise in making medicines. Today’s message for future pharmacist recruits seems to be that pharmacy is mainly clinical; there is little emphasis on making medicines. One consequence is that recruits with primarily clinical interests will be attracted whereas recruits with industrial interests will not; industrial interest among pharmacists will wane further. Without a body of industrial knowledge, applied by pharmacists in actual practice, pharmacists’ claim to be experts on medicines will be significantly weakened.
Further evidence of the disinterest of the Council in industrial pharmacy includes the fact that the Society’s website omits a list detailing those pharmacists eligible to be nominated as qualified persons (QPs), who are able legally to certify the release of batches of medicine on to the market. Compare that omission with the website of the Royal Society of Chemistry: it does include a list of chemists eligible to be QPs. That comparison may suggest that chemists consider the manufacture of medicines more important than do pharmacists.
Professions have jostled for market share of activities over history, as the sociologist Abbott details1. Such jostling is unlikely to cease in this third millennium. It would be a pity if, in a generation, pharmacists were not the experts in medicines because the practical reality had become that so few pharmacists worked in industry (and so few pharmacists dispensed extemporaneously) that pharmacists had forgotten how to make medicines.
I urge the Council to reconsider the longer-term implications of its decision.
Malcolm E. Brown
- Abbott A. The system of professions — an essay on the division of expert labour. Chicago: University of Chicago Press; 1988. p61.