A medical elective in pharmaceutical medicine

My name is Sam Waterson. I’ve just
finished my medical degree at Saint George’s University of London and at the
end of this month I’ll be starting my first job as a very junior doctor. I have
recently completed my elective and for my elective I chose to do it in
pharmaceutical medicine. As far as we’re aware this is the first time a medical
student has done an elective in pharmaceutical medicine, certainly in the
UK. I was able to arrange that elective through the help of the Faculty of
Pharmaceutical Medicine, in particular professor Alan Boyd and Dr Karen Mullen
were very helpful with helping me set it up. Over the course my medical degree
came more and more important to me to be able to do something at scale.
Now medicine is fantastic but you can only help each patient in front of you
as a jobbing doctor, in order to do something where you can truly impact a
huge number of people you need to look elsewhere and pharmaceutical medicine is
one of those areas where you can do that where the work you do can literally
impact millions of people, so that’s what appealed to me about are doing this
elective, I really wanted to find out more about the industry how it all
worked what sort of roles doctors took on. In terms of the format of the
elective itself I had a five week period and during those five weeks I was based
mostly with GlaxoSmithKline and also I spent some time with Astra Zeneca as
well and my experience actually within these organisations was very varied.
I met a huge range of different people across very varied departments of the
industry and was able to spend a good amount of time with them really getting
to know a lot more about how these individuals functioned how these areas
of the industries worked and how it all fitted together to, at the end of it,
create a drug that patients could use. Over my five weeks with the
pharmaceutical industry I was able to speak to a number of different people
who talked a lot about the future developments of where the industry is
heading and they were quite genuinely excited about a number of
different areas where things are changing for the better or developing.
There was a few different particular themes I came across
one was a more patient centric approach trying to focus much more on the good
they’re doing to individual patients or patients as a whole and trying to move
away as much as a company can from a focus on money, basically, to
instead of that looking at the number of patients treated as opposed to a number
of drug sold if that makes sense. And also an exciting development is the use
of genomic data. GlaxoSmithKline is a particularly good example of that aware
under their research director Hal Barron they’re focusing much more on using
genetic data partnering with companies such as 23andMe
to really utilise this data to create or identify new drug targets that are more
likely to be successful and actually get through and produce a successful drug
at the end of the day. One of the really big problems that everyone I spoke to
across the industry was very aware of is the, what’s called the hit rate in the
industry, so the number of potential drugs so the number of molecules they
have to investigate and test and trial before they actually come up with one
that can be used as a viable drug is very high. The vast majority, over
90% of these molecules have to be discarded at one stage of the process or
another, this is obviously very expensive and drives up the cost of drugs at
the end of the day. So people within industry recognise that this hit
rate has to go up so that drug costs can go down, and use of genomic data
is one really quite exciting possibility of a possible way of doing this.
Whether the use of genomic data will be successful and revolutionise the
industry some people hope remains to be seen and I guess we won’t find out for a
good few years but it’s certainly a very exciting development.


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