Ever since mankind was forced to come to terms with the fragility of human life, it has been consumed with conquering it. Is it any wonder then, that billions of dollars each year are pumped into the research and development of drugs to combat death, disease or aging?
Pharmacy has come a long way. After centuries of succumbing to plagues, poxes, or even the common cold, breakthroughs in the pharmaceutical industry have now equipped the world to deal with new strains that threaten a global pandemic every now and then, treat potentially terminal and ordinary illnesses perpetrated by changing lifestyles, or even just ensure good healthcare practices.
The Indian pharmaceutical industry is touted by many as one of the largest of the developing world, and has also gained a reputation for producing high-quality, low-cost generic drugs.
“According to the McKinsey Report, Indian Pharma 2015 (Unlocking the potential of the Indian pharma market), the Indian pharmaceutical industry is growing in leaps and bounds with a CAGR of 13% from 2002 to 2007, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 16% over 2007 to 2011,” reveals Pradeep Vaishnav, senior director, Aventis Pharma Limited (Group sanofi-aventis), Mumbai, adding, “The industry is on the global radar now, more than ever, with India being viewed as the most sought-after destination for pharma activities, primarily research and development, and clinical research.” India’s prominent position in the world pharmaceutical sector can be credited, in part, to her mastery over pharma engineering technology, and reverse engineering of patented drug molecules.
Vaishnav goes on to add, “Many multinational, pharmaceutical companies are here, seeking India’s high level of scientific expertise and large pool of English-speaking talent. Besides, India still maintains its stronghold in contract manufacturing, which has further widened the scope of opportunities available in the pharmaceutical industry. Additionally, the concept of pharmaceutical retail chains has gained momentum in recent years, and has created numerous employment opportunities in the sector.”
The demand for a skilled workforce to power this sector has thrown open several job profiles for aspirants. Research and development has several areas. According to Prabir Jha, global chief, HR, Dr Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd, Hyderabad, the area a student chooses within R&D, depends on his interest and passion. He says, “On one level, he can work in drug discovery, which is discovery of a new molecule. R&D can pertain to the development of generic products, analytical R&D, API (Active Pharmaceutical Ingredients) or bulk drugs R&D, or development of formulations, all of which have their own super-specialisations.”
Sanjay Muthal, managing director, Nugrid Consulting, predicts, “NCE or discovery research for a New Chemical Entity is a very promising area. There is a lot of reverse brain-drain in this space, and we are able to attract people from the US and UK to pursue research here.” This area, therefore, offers an opportunity to work with the best minds from across the world.
“R&D can also deal with drug delivery, which can be in the form of a tablet, capsule or injection,” explains R N Saha, professor of pharmacy and dean, Education Development Division, BITS-Pilani. He elaborates, “While meat is considered food, you cannot consume it in its raw form. You have to cook it. Similarly, you need to consume drugs through the correct delivery. There are opportunities in this area too.”
Quality control is a critical function of the pharmaceutical industry. Besides researching and developing new drugs, there is also a need to ensure that drugs can be marketed as those that produce results, which are safe, consistent and predictable. Considering the pace at which this sector is producing better, more effective drugs, there is also a need for more accurate and sophisticated analytical methods to aid their evaluation.
Manufacturing pertains to actual production of the drug. “In manufacturing, an aspirant can either be involved in API manufacturing, while someone with a pharmacy background, can also build a career in manufacturing formulations,” explains Jha.
Screening of drugs involves testing new drugs or formulations on animal models, or conducting clinical research, which is essentially human testing. Professor Saha reveals, “Clinical research has recently witnessed a lot of international interest, with foreign companies coming to India to conduct clinical research.”
Pharma is a regulated industry the world over, and professionals, who can manage regulatory affairs, are in high demand. “You can’t sell drugs like you sell anything else. Regulation is essentially a government affair, and it is an art and science to keep abreast of all the regulatory norms in the country,” declares Jha. However, Saha clarifies, “The regulatory sphere is not just a government sphere. For instance, if a company wants to market its product in the US, then they have to go by USFDA (United States Food and Drug Association) guidelines. For this, they will have advisors within the company, as well.”
Unlike, pharmacies and pharmacists in India, pharmacists abroad have a very important role. It is because of this gap that needs to be bridged that Saha believes this area offers innumerable opportunities. “Pharmacists abroad are called registered pharmacists. Just like a doctor would require a licence to practice medicine, they require a licence to practice pharmacy. They have to pass a test and register,” asserts Saha, adding, “this is a lucrative job abroad and offers a high salary. When patients take a doctor’s prescription to the pharmacy, the pharmacist will determine if everything is in order. If he feels there has been an error in the prescription, he has the authority to call the doctor and tell him so, and also request him to make a change.”
The Pharmacy Council of India has started a six-year programme, PharmD, to provide training in this discipline.
December 02, 2008