Virtually everything the whole medical profession relies on is produced by the pharmaceuticals industry. Everything a doctor prescribes, a hospital stocks, or you buy off the shelves when you’re ill comes from the various pharmaceutical companies out there.
Britain has a particularly strong reputation in this field. Seven of the world’s top 25 medicines were produced in British laboratories, and with £4.3 billion currently being invested each year into pharmaceutical research and development, brace yourself for a few more contributions over the next few years.
Why is it important? What does it involve?
World governments rely on pharmaceutical companies to prevent epidemics, stock their hospitals with lifesaving drugs and generally assist with the modest challenge of maintaining the health of the world’s population.
The pharmaceutical industry has a huge amount of responsibility, but don’t feel sorry for them just yet. They do well. Very well! Exports alone from UK pharmaceutical companies generate over £5 billion a year.
A lot of their resources are allocated to the labs. If a company stumbles across a really useful drug, they are literally given a license to print money. With this in mind, a lot of their focus is placed on the discovery of new and even more effective drugs.
Once the magic formula has been unravelled, the manufacturing begins. Individual drugs can be produced for pence and sold for pounds. The huge amount of money that these companies spend in the lab is the reason for the huge mark-up they make on their drugs. If you are involved in producing these pharmaceutical products, your main responsibility will be to find the most cost-effective method to produce them.
Break it down for me a little bit!
Once the drug compounds have been extracted, designed and tested, the trials begin. Following a barrage of safety checks and clinical assessments, the successful product is handed over to individuals that will design and carry out its production on a mass scale. Highly skilled engineers are required at this point, along with the workers required to ensure the smooth operation of a manufacturing plant.
There may be reason to build a bespoke factory and equipment for an individual drug or to adjust an existing one. The drug might be in huge demand which requires you to find a way of expanding the production line. There might also be an epidemic which requires you to do all of the above in half the time.
The pharmaceuticals industry can be one of the most challenging and highly technical areas of manufacturing and production. However, all the same career opportunities are available, so you could still be working as a production manager, an engineer or part of the factory floor staff.
Given that the UK spends nearly £12 million a day on researching and developing new drugs, new compounds come thick and fast out of the lab for production. With around 70,000 people working in the pharmaceutical industry, including 23,000 involved exclusively in research and development, there’s a huge amount of opportunity for career progression.
Working within the pharmaceutical industry means being on the frontline of the fight against disease and other illnesses, and we think that’s a pretty awesome place to be career-wise.