Opening the doors to the fascinating world of the pharmaceutical industry – FIP World Congress of Pharmacists

By: Sini Eskola, EFPIA. Executive Committee member of the International Pharmaceutical Federation’s industrial pharmacy section

Over 3,100 pharmacists from 111 countries attended the FIP congress in Düsseldorf, Germany, in the first week of October, to discuss the theme “Better practice – science-based, evidence-driven.” What could have been a better-chosen theme for an industrial pharmacist? Outcomes-driven healthcare is on the top of many of our agendas in current policy discussions.

In her presidential speech, FIP president Carmen Peña called on pharmacists and pharmaceutical scientists around the world to ensure that the pharmacy profession remains relevant and able to respond effectively to the current and future needs of the world’s communities. She presented a “two times two” plan, which means taking two actions at two levels – one on professional development and another to promote and defend the profession’s interests – each taken at individual and collective level. Patients and healthcare professionals, services on public health and sustainability aspects – in terms of access – as well as the correct use and disposal of medicines should be the focus of that plan.

Together with a few colleagues from the Industrial Pharmacy Section of FIP and the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences in the UK, we decided to put together one full day of the programme “Industrial Insights”. Kindly hosted by the local pharmaceutical industry (Johnson & Johnson and Janssen Cilag), the event aimed at providing an opportunity for the young professionals to learn how our skills and knowledge can be utilised in different disciplines of the pharmaceutical industry.

Ten top-notch speakers spoke about a day in their life, how their career path had developed and what kind of skills would, in their opinion, be relevant for roles within the industry. Common themes came through in each of those talks. We need good communication and organisational skills, teamwork abilities, flexibility and an ability to prioritise. The individual’s activity matters and a person with high motivation stands out. You’ll learn most of the specific skills and knowledge on the job itself, and it is always good trying to find a few mentors who can support you and your career choices in one way or another.

It was remarkable to hear from many of the young pharmacists what motivates them and why they would want to work in the pharmaceutical industry. Many claimed they want to be able to help patients and to be part of an innovative industry that develops medicines for unmet medical needs. We can make a difference in patients’ life.

After dividing into teams, one part of the programme was dedicated to participants trying to address specific questions about the development of medicines through an interactive game called: “From Molecule to Medicine”, which the Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences has developed. While pondering different scenarios, the understanding on what actually is required in a real life setting became apparent. How do you conduct early phase pharmacokinetics and dynamics studies so that you receive the required data for your marketing authorization dossier and can enter the clinical trial phase 2? How should the final formulation for your product look and when do you need to make a decision on that? How do you set up the optimal clinical trial, which has meaningful objectives, with so-called end points?

Teams learned that sometimes more conservative choices may slow access to a medicine, or that perhaps over-complicated solutions might increase costs and make the development process inefficient. There were no right or wrong answers, but perhaps some options were better fitted into the scenario than others. The room was full of laughter as the concept truly encouraged participants to talk to each other.

An interesting panel debate, moderated by Claire Davidson (Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences) and involving Jayne Lawrence (Vice Chair of Academy of Pharmaceutical Sciences),Ulf Janzon (Secretary of Industrial Pharmacy Section in FIP) and Sarah Sinclair (Young Pharmacists Group in FIP and Manager in community pharmacy in Australia), concentrated on where innovation is born and who drives it.

When an intense but friendly debate reached some conclusions, the audience and panelists agreed on one thing: innovation needs collaboration! Different fields need to push each other to innovate. While academia is resourced to concentrate on hardcore science and nurturing new hypotheses and ideas, industry innovates these ideas into a product and helps to bring it to patients. Community pharmacists have a role in innovation in finding ways on how best to use the product to secure an optimum outcome for the patient. The patient also drives innovation as it is he or she who utlimately decides if innovation is used at all.

On behalf of the organisers, we were overwhelmed by the positive feedback the event received. We are inspired to reach and educate more pharmacists about the role the pharmaceutical industry plays in healthcare – perhaps next time at the FIP congress in Buenos Aires 2016?

At the same time Pharmaceuticals in the Environment was discussed

By: Ioana Enache EFPIA

This year’s FIP Congress also hosted a session on pharmaceuticals and the environment. The session aimed to educate pharmacists about the issue, provide a global overview of ongoing initiatives, and to discuss more concretely the pharmacist’s role in green pharmacy practice.

The German Federal Environmental Agency (UBA) presented its Research Project on the state of knowledge on distribution of PIE at a global level. Then, Eeva Teräsalmi introduced a new FIP study, ”Future Green Pharmacists”, while Prof. Niklas Sandler introduced a new PIE course on the curricula of the pharmaceutical programme at Åbo Akademi, Finland. Mirjana Milic of UNDP presented an initiative on sustainable procurement in the health sector. We are particularly proud that the online communication campaign ( initiated by EFPIA and other healthcare stakeholders was presented as a good practice example to promote information to consumers, and has already been used and promoted in various events organised by pharmacists globally.

Sini Eskola

Sini Eskola is working as Team Leader and Director Regulatory Strategy at EFPIA since February 2014. She has a...
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