Pharmaceutical Industry

Some doctors choose to work as physician-scientists for large pharmaceutical companies. Pharmaceuticals are a multibillion dollar business, so they only hire the best and brightest candidates. Physicians are unique, indispensable employees because they have lots of direct experience taking care of patients and they have an in-depth understanding of human pathophysiology. In these companies, physicians from all different specialties come together and apply their collective medical knowledge for a common goal: the development of new drug therapies. Specialists currently in high demand include neurologists, geriatricians, pain specialists, pul-monologists, oncologists, cardiologists, and infectious disease specialists.

Physicians working in the pharmaceutical industry help get new medications approved by the US Food and Drug Administration. They participate in this highly regulated process in many ways, such as administering large-scale doubleblind randomized clinical trials or conducting bench laboratory work in pharmacology. By working on a drug that can be delivered to everyone, pharmaceutical physicians can leave a much greater mark on health care than those in traditional practice. They have special insight into what it is like for patients to take the kinds of medications that are being developed. Knowing how drugs can affect a patient's life is essential for figuring out the best way to test a new compound in human clinical trials.

Like their colleagues in academia, doctors working in the pharmaceutical industry have careers in applied medical research involving experimental medications. They spend much of their time designing large-scale clinical trials, interpreting the data through statistical analysis, and presenting reports to the approving authorities. They also travel around the country attending scientific and clinical meetings. As members of multidisciplinary teams, they sacrifice autonomy for the chance to work with other professionals, like those in statistics, product development, and marketing. But industry doctors do not have to worry about securing grant funds, administrative hassles, or promotions— issues that academic physicians face every day. They also have regular hours, good lifestyles, and high incomes with lucrative stock options and bonuses. Clinical activities, however, are kept to a bare minimum (usually only one day per week at most).

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