Industrial Pharmacy – A Lucrative Career Choice for Pharmacy Students in a Post-Pandemic World

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Industrial Pharmacy – A Lucrative Career Choice for Pharmacy Students in a Post-Pandemic World

The world came to a standstill in early 2020 with the infamous COVID-19. Economic activities underwent a halt, health crises burgeoned, hospitals over the world were filled beyond their capacity and new modes of education, work and living were introduced.

During this global crisis, India stood at the forefront of exporting life-saving medicines, medical devices, equipment and other assistance related to COVID-19 to over 150 countries. This included 723.435 lakh doses of COVID vaccine, 50 million tablets of hydroxychloroquine, 11 lakh injections of remdesivir, and several other drugs including paracetamol and azithromycin. All of this resulted in thrusting the pharma sector and pharmaceutical sciences into the spotlight. It is estimated that the Indian pharmaceutical sector meets 40% of the generic drug product demand of the USA and 25% of the demand of Europe, both of which are its major markets. India is also home to the largest vaccine manufacturer in the world, the Serum Institute of India, which tied up with AstraZeneca to produce the Covishield vaccine in India. With the launch of Covaxin developed by Bharat Biotech in collaboration with the Indian Council of Medical Research – National Institute of Virology, India entered the list of countries that produced their indigenous COVID-19 vaccines. The Indian pharmaceutical industry is expected to grow further and reach an estimated 130 billion USD by the year 2030.

How big is the pharmaceutical industry and what’s its scope?

Pharmaceutical scientists work at the cusp of chemistry, biology, biochemistry, mathematics and materials science along with core pharmacy disciplines to develop drugs, technologies and processes that have helped a number of people around the globe. Newly discovered drug molecules are subjected to trials on animal models and on human volunteers or patients to test their effectiveness and safety. Studies are then conducted to optimize the delivery of the drug into the body and this understanding is translated into better therapeutic measures against disease(s). This is succeeded by the development of different dosage forms of the drug, such as tablets, capsules, injectables, and inhaled and topically applied products. All of this is no mean feat as drug development takes several years of detailed in-silico, in vitro, and in vivo experimentation and involves bringing together experts in the field.

Industrial pharmacy is that function involved in the large-scale manufacture of drugs and pharmaceuticals that are marketed to consumers and has a direct impact on patients’ lives. It is a branch of pharmaceutics or pharmaceutical technology, which is concerned with dosage form development. Industrial pharmacists manufacture drug products as per validated processes and subject them to several quality control tests as per the standards of the regulatory agency concerning geography. In India, the regulatory authority for pharmaceuticals is the Central Drugs Standard Control Organization (CDSCO), while the US has the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the European Union has the European Medicines Agency (EMA). Apart from manufacturing drug products that are safe, effective and meet regulatory guidelines, industrial pharmacists also optimize production processes and technologies for economic effectiveness. They can be engaged in technology transfer and scaling up of the formula and processes from laboratory scale to production scale, which requires a sound scientific understanding of the drug product. Responsibilities in this department also include conducting quality control tests on manufactured drug products.

Industrial pharmacy is also closely linked with the other functions of pharmaceutical organizations, namely research and development (R&D), clinical research, regulatory affairs, intellectual property management, quality assurance, quality control, business development, medical affairs, pharmacovigilance, packaging development and sales and marketing, all of which require skilled professionals. Career options include lab-based and non-lab-based roles, and leadership and managerial positions in pharmaceutical (and biotechnological) companies. Health economics and outcomes research, clinical data analysis, and clinical trial management are also emerging closely linked fields. Many of these fields require cross-functional collaboration, strategic thinking, and analytical skills, apart from scientific knowledge and problem-solving skills.

Where do the Indian pharmaceutical giants stand?

The global pharmaceutical industry is experiencing unprecedented levels of growth in spite of and perhaps due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic. Newer diseases are coming to the fore, and newer, improved medicines are being developed to tackle them. A sizable number of new drugs are expected to be launched in the near future, with considerable growth and development in the oncology, immunology and neurology therapy sectors. Apart from New Chemical Entities (NCEs) and New Biological Entities (NBEs), repurposed drugs, complex generics, biosimilars and vaccines might be game changers in the sector. As the industry grows, the demand for qualified professionals will also continue its upward trend.

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Dr Jyothsna Manikkath Assistant Professor, Department of Pharmaceutics, Manipal College of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Manipal Academy of Higher Education, Manipal.


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