Despite the fact that pharmaceutical doctors have very little direct patient contact compared with hospital doctors or GPs, the medicines and vaccines that they develop can ultimately affect the lives of millions of people across the world. Working for the benefit of patients and of the public is therefore still very much at the heart of a pharmaceutical physician’s work.
Pharmaceutical physicians are predominantly employed by private companies, which will have their own strict codes of conduct and protocols for ensuring that ethical principles and standards are met, and the ongoing high quality of work carried out under their sponsorship. All organisations involved in clinical trials must have in place a quality management system (QMS) to support the trial activities they conduct. This is to ensure that trial systems meet the requirements of clinical trial legislation and associated guidelines, and that processes are applied in consistent manner. The extent and complexity of QMS depends on the size and nature of the organisation, but essential features include:
- clearly documented written procedures
- adequate training of staff
- quality control and quality assurance (audit) procedures.
Company practices are further supported by professional codes of practice and statutes that enshrine Good Clinical Practice (GCP) and the safety and wellbeing of the patient and/or research subject (eg the Declaration of Helsinki).
The majority of pharmaceutical physicians in the UK are members of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine (FPM), a faculty of the Royal Colleges of Physicians of the UK. The FPM oversees Pharmaceutical Medicine Specialty Training, which enables qualified doctors to obtain specialist registration in pharmaceutical medicine with the General Medical Council.