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Common pathways for doctors entering the industry with pro's and con's

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The 3 most common pathways for doctors entering into the industry are, Clinical Development, Medical Affairs and Drug Safety. Here are my takes on them,

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Clinical Development

Arguably the area where your medical degree will have the most impact. Here you are closer to patients and your medical knowledge will be heavily relied upon (toxicology, dosing, combo therapy decisions, Stop Go decisions etc). Many of my clients like Clin Dev as it's a good blend of people's engagement (speaking with investigators, investors, medical affairs etc) but also still scientifically very engaging. You can work at all phases of the drug cycle, including preclinical, and every Biotech and Pharma needs people in this area.

This is not ideal for those who want a lot of flexibility, typically companies want such strategic players to be involved in the company and usually (not always of course) ask for 3 days a week in the office. The other complaint I hear is people getting stuck in too much hands on tasks (medical monitoring namely) and not given the chance/responsibility to make those big decisions. There are ways around this, so contact me if this describes you.

Medical Affairs

Here is where medical doctors can really combine medicine and sales/marketing. You will be the authority between your company’s drugs and the customer/KOL network. It's critical here to be a good story teller but only through facts, published trial data, approved on label uses and by listening to your network. Usually products are still at PIII / Preregistration so it's important to “sell” the current data and generate interest, rather than sell the actual product (this is only possible after approval). A good example of this is a recent executive we placed in Bayer. He led a biosimilars unit and even though there were cheaper drugs available, he and his team created strategies and structures to better help their physician network making their product the market leader (and opened doors for other drugs/services).

This is not ideal for those who do not like “selling”. In Medical Affairs you must be comfortable talking about revenue, profit and business campaigns. Not all doctors enjoy this. Some companies too take this too far and push their Medical team under commercial leaders pushing them further from medical discussions and into pure sales / ethical grey zones. This and PIII failures are the biggest reasons people leave their role.

Drug Safety

An area which usually requires the least specialisation as it is usually disease agnostic. Here you will be responsible for ensuring toxicology, dosing, unique cases/signals, disease changes in different populations and more are measured. This area is usually more critical at Phase III but a robust Safety process must be followed from the beginning otherwise FDA/Reg bodies will impose fines, delays etc. Typically flexibility is more common (full working from home) and job security is very stable with large career options (work from home with any disease area means more options). Analytical mindsets and being able to connect large data sets is important. Benefit : Risk or implementing PV structures can be highly strategic and often lead to new angles to research (if a constant Off Label use is being monitored, this can be identified and then re-entered in Phase I trials to find new benefits). Decision will also impact who gets and who doesn’t get treatment (think children and Covid Vaccines).

This is not ideal for those who want to be more part of the innovation or business side of things. Much of the ‘new’ work is done earlier on so it's largely about tracking that. If you are a specialist doctor and want to stay close to science, this has (arguably) the least disease related work. Career development can be harder, typically there are less structures in place and usually only large pharma hire Drug Safety as they have more programmes / Phase III or IV trials.

If you are a neurologist or oncologist looking for industry work - please reach out.

Need specialised Medical Talent for your team? Let me know.


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