In a session at the 74th International Pharmaceutical Federation Congress in Bangkok, planned by the Industrial Pharmacists Section, the training needs of pharmacists in the industry were discussed.
Stephen Chapman, from the pharmacy department at the University of Keele, Staffordshire, described the range of roles that pharmacists might have in the pharmaceutical industry, which included not just scientific roles, such as manufacturing, formulation and quality assurance, but also regulatory affairs, certification of promotional material, marketing and medical sales. However, he warned that pharmacists were in competition with graduates of other disciplines for these roles. “Pharmacists do not have a divine right to jobs in the pharmaceutical industry,” he said.
However, the industry would always look for bright, interested and well rounded people, whatever their qualifications. Pharmacists had the benefit of a broad scientific education and a patient-centred viewpoint, and so pharmacy schools should prepare students for the mixed roles that the industry offers. In terms of training, Chapman said that, rather than buying state-of-the-art technology that might be outdated when students qualify, pharmacy schools should concentrate on teaching the principles of pharmaceutical industry work and get industry practitioners involved to conduct specialist teaching.
Chapman described a medical sales simulation package, which helped students to develop important transferable soft skills, such as understanding the customer, choosing supporting documentation, building rapport, using questions and handling objections. He said that sales skills could not be taught and had to be learnt by practice. He indicated that pharmacists would need to engage with other training programmes offered by the industry sector.
Elijah Mohammed, registrar of the Pharmaceutical Council of Nigeria, said the pharmaceutical industry was highly dynamic and training needs changed regularly. He said, in his experience, there were gaps in pre-service and in-service training of industry pharmacists and that training needed was a combination of needs-based (based on the requirements of the industry) and performance-based (to enable the individual to fulfil their job role).
Collaboration, not harmonisation
Anne Juppo from the faculty of pharmacy, University of Helsinki, compared pharmaceutical industry activity and industry-related training for pharmacists in three countries: Finland, Ireland and Singapore. She said that pharmaceutical industry activity was very different in the three countries and that it would be difficult to have an internationally harmonised professional training programme for pharmacists in industry.
However, Juppo described the EU-funded project, Linking Industry and Academia in Teaching Pharmaceutical Manufacture and Development (LIAT-Ph) — a collaboration between the University of Helsinki, Trinity College Dublin, the University of Belgrade, the University of Ljubljana, Queen’s University Belfast and the pharmaceutical industry — which aimed to explore the learning needs of pharmacy students and pharmacists at all levels, and to develop a common curriculum for industrial pharmacists.
The project conducted a survey in 2014, which showed that basic skills (e.g. manufacturing process and dosage form skills) were covered well in undergraduate studies, that some skills, such as leadership, business economics and intellectual property skills, should be taught at postgraduate level, and that some aspects (e.g. quality assurance) should be elective subjects.