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Physicians in the Pharmaceutical Industry

Discussion in 'Med Business [ MD/MBA, DO/MBA, DDS/MBA ]' started by pazzer2, Nov 29, 2005.

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  1. pazzer2

    pazzer2 Member

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    The following is taken from several PMs that I've sent out to people who have asked for some details on how I got into pharma. Here is my background briefly: MD at a well respected state school, 2 yrs Gen surgery residency followed by 3 yrs Family Practice. Have now been working in pharma for the last 6 years.

    The pharma world for MDs is sharply divided into two camps: 1) Business 2) Research & Development (R&D). The business camp is devoted to the commercialization, marketing and sales of pharma products once they hit the market. In the business side of pharma, most are people with MBA degrees. There are very few MDs or MD/MBAs. The reason is that it is much more expensive to hire a MD/MBA than just a newly minted ivy league MBA. Physicians who enter this area are relatively few.

    The R&D camp deals entirely with compounds before they get approved. Within Pharma R&D there are many different divisions that physicians work in:

    Drug Safety: Physicians here work to monitor spontaneous adverse events coming in from the field and to monitor overall general trends. Physicians who work here generally have experience with epidemiology (most are generalists FP, IM, Pediatrics, etc)

    Clinical Pharmacology: Physicians in this area generally work on compounds that are being tested in humans for the first time. This is known as Phase I. The goal here is to establish that the compound is safe in small numbers of healthy volunteers. Typical kinds of trials done in Phase I are: maximum tolerated dose, bioequivalence, bioavailability, drug-drug interaction. The physicians who work in this area generally have done a clinical pharmacology fellowship or have experience working in a clin pharm unit along with general medical training (Internal medicine, FP, etc).

    Clinical Development: This is known as Phase II and Phase III. The goal of this phase is to ensure that the drug is effective. The trials are larger and involve patients with the disease of interest. Now the pharma companies need physicians with particular expertise in the disease state to run the trials. The therapeutic areas with the most number of drugs in development are (in order): Oncology, CNS, Cardiovascular, Endocrine/diabetes, Infectious Disease. Within CNS, the greatest need is for physicians with experience in the development of neurology, psychiatry and pain compounds. The pain world is currently shared by anesthesiologists, and rheumatologists. So someone like you who is trained as an anesthesiologist/pain specialist would be useful. The sponsor (pharma) physicians hire investigators around the world in clinics/hospitals to recruit patients into their trials. The pharma physicians write the protocols, specify how the results should be analyzed and submit the results to the FDA. For examples of ongoing Phase II/III trials goto http://www.clinicaltrials.gov.

    Medical affairs/Phase IV: After a drug is approved, then it is handed over to this group. The goal of trials in this phase is to further delineate and establish the market. This area is weighted heavily towards marketing/sales instead of pure science. Physicians who work in this area are also specialists, similar to Phase 3 (Clinical development) above.

    Now the biggest caveat about the pharma industry is that it is very, very, very difficult to get a job without having direct prior pharma experience. So if you've never worked on a clinical drug trial, or have worked for a pharma company then it will be very difficult to get your foot in the door. There are many arcane rules and regulations that apply in the pharma industry and it is not generally taught in medical school or residency. If your long-term goal is to get a job in the industry then there are several ways you can gain experience:

    1) Do a fellowship in any of the high demand specialities: oncology, cardiology, GI, neurology and psychiatry.
    2) Volunteer to be a physician at a clinical research center near you. Goto http://www.centerwatch.org. Then peruse by patient listings and trial type. You will be able to find investigators in your area that are doing trials. You may want to call them and ask if you can volunteer and learn the ropes. After a year or so of working as a doc in one of these centers, you will have enough experience to be considered for pharma MD jobs.
    3) Consider the FDA. The FDA hires lots of people right out of their fellowships. After a year or two at the FDA you could write your own ticket. The pay at the FDA is somewhat sub-par (ie 130-140 range) but you'd only have to do it for a short time.

    Now everyone always asks me what the pay range. The range of course varies with the company, but in general, here is what you can expect (all of these positions usually get offered stock options, vesting over a 3-5 year period).

    Assistant Director (0-2 yrs experience) $130K-140K + 10-15% yearly bonus
    Associate Director (2-4 yrs experience) $145K-165K + 15-20% yearly bonus
    Director (5-10 yrs experience) $175K-$225K + 30-50% yearly bonus
    Sr Director (10-15 yrs experience) $250K-$275K + 75-100% yearly bonus
    Vice President (15 yrs + experience) $300K and above + executive bonus package
    Sr Vice President $400K-$500K + 100-200% bonus

    The top most physician at my company makes $675K base salary plus an executive bonus package and stock options. This is all publicly available information. As you can see, the pay can be quite nice, especially at higher levels. Keep in mind however, that competition for these top spots is quite intense. Only a few dozen physicians ever make it to the top-top levels of corporate pharma. If you were a cardiologist however, then the pay at the lower levels is far lower than what you'd make out in private practice.

    Stock options can also be quite a windfall if you join a company at the right time. In my case, I have never made any money off stock options just because of bad timing. There are several mid-level managers at my current company who are millionaires just because they joined the company at the right time and sold their options.
  2. hdo781

    hdo781 Junior Member

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    pazzer2,

    Thank you for your insightful post. As an MD/MBA graduate, I thought getting a job in the pharmaceutical would be a piece of cake. After reading your post, I realize how wrong I actually was. Even though I'm currently in an internal medicine residency, my plan was to enter industry and work my way up the corporate ladder without really practing clinical medicine. From your post, it seems that the best way to enter the pharmaceutical industry as a physician would be via a fellowship. I thought I could be board certified in internal medicine and get a management position. However, from your post, why would any pharmaceutical company pay for an MD/MBA when it could simply hire an MBA with industry experience for less.

    -hdo781
  3. bobito

    bobito Senior Member

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    great post. Thank you.
  4. mackie

    mackie Senior Member

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    Wow, very insightful info. We should keep this bumped up so that more people see it. There are many dreaming of easy entry into the pharm world as an alternative to medical practice.
  5. ramonaquimby

    ramonaquimby I'm a PGY3?! WHAT?!

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    excellent post, op! very much appreciated. thank you so much! :thumbup:
  6. tbo

    tbo MS-4

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    Just to add from a slightly different perspective. I worked at a top 3 pharma in two capacities - research IT and clinical research. I mention the first because my main project was how to recruit scientists through the web. I got a chance to talk to every department head in the company and how they recruited their top scientists. Yes it is entirely true that it is difficult to get into pharma without experience, particularly as a mid-to-senior position (which often is what an MD would be shooting for). The second is, I didn't find any person that would recruit a non-Board Certified candidate (with some being ok with Board Eligible). This was a "show-stopper" for all people. The second major distinction was publications. They'll do a quick look at research productivity from all MDs - since this is the capacity in which they are hiring for.

    There are however a few more areas where MDs are recruited at relatively high rates. A lot of the supporting roles to the ones listed by pazzer2 - Biostats, Epi, Clinical Data Management (MD/PhD at my job), Clinical Operations (business side of clinical research), Regulatory Affairs (acting as liaison between the FDA and the company), some of the more business savvy companies hire MDs in Public Affairs/External Communications, Scientific Licensing, some basic research roles, and marketing (which hires a boatload of MDs).

    Generally speaking though, for the roles listed by pazzer2, I think big pharma's just really slow in hiring MDs. It took our last MD from first contact to first day of work around 1.5 years, which is ridiculous since we were crazy busy at the time. The industry though is shifting from big pharma moving more towards development (Safety Assessment/Animal Pharmacology to Phase I-IV) and allowing smaller pharma/biotech to do the basic research and discovery. As such, there is tremendous growth in clinical development (which plays nicely to MDs looking to get into the field). The moral is it's difficult, but it's definitely possible. Getting hired into pharma (and any job really) is all about marketing yourself. Once you understand the drug discovery process, you've got a good leg up on the competition. There's a huge need - it's now a matter of getting the foot in the door.

    tbo
    biotechpharma likes this.
  7. prominence

    prominence Senior Member

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    if u are an MD working in the pharmaceutical industry, do u actually perform the research or do u oversee others doing it, and participate in the process of getting the product/medication approved by the FDA?
  8. prominence

    prominence Senior Member

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    bump
  9. pazzer2

    pazzer2 Member

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    Depends on which area you are in:

    If you are in Clinical pharmacology, you may be the MD running the clinical pharmacology unit (admitting patients, doing physicals, checking labs, etc). Not many MDs do this however, although it is possible.

    Otherwise most other MDs in pharma work on overseeing investigators and the entire research process.
  10. prominence

    prominence Senior Member

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    specifically, are MDs who work in pharma doing actual writing/publishing?
  11. pazzer2

    pazzer2 Member

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    Generally if you were the MD working on the clinical trial, and the results are important then most companies encourage you to publish your results.

    There are teams of medical writers, statisticians and others who help with the actual writing, but a large part of the work falls upon the MDs.
  12. redruckus

    redruckus Senior Member

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    Does anyone have any knowledge on getting into pharmaceutical sales? Also what do doctors and pharmacitst consider good pharm reps?

    Thanks,
    Red
  13. DrJosephKim

    DrJosephKim Advisor SDN Advisor

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    This is a great post, so 'bump'

    Now, I want to add that the salary ranges listed about really vary based on your specialty or sub-specialty.

    Also, keep in mind that many physicians go into industry from academia (because they have publishing experience, research, clinical trials, etc.)

    Most physicians in academia earn a relatively low salary compared to those in the private sector. It's not uncommon to see salaries in the 80k's and 90k's for those in academia. So, to jump to $150k can be a huge jump for them!

    Finally, for those of you who have an entrepreneurial spirit, remember that pharma and Wall Street are NOT the only non-clinical opportunities for physicians. Want to learn more? Take a look at this:

    http://forums.studentdoctor.net/blog.php?b=813

    Look forward to seeing some further discussion on this topic.
  14. PMmetoHelp

    PMmetoHelp Why so serious?

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    Excellent post Pazzer! Just a minor correction I believe you meant
    http://www.centerwatch.com/ instead or the .org

    I have a question for you. It sounds as if after your Family Medicine residency you went straight into pharma. How did you make the transition?

    Thanks!
  15. HealthHare

    HealthHare

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    Awesome post! Can anyone comment more on this topic? More insight on biotech would be great!
  16. Dr Ellen McKay

    Dr Ellen McKay

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    As an MD/MBA I found this thread useful and informative, though posts from 2005 may need refreshing, since a lot has happened in the field. Here's my experience:
    - you definitely need some clinical practice to put on your resume. A completed residency will get you in the door.
    - smaller biotech companies will be interested, and depending on their funding and confidence, they will pay around $120 -140k salary and a 10-15% bonus (Silicon Valley numbers from 2011). This will be a director position, if you are in a relatively small company (about 50 employees). At a larger company, you may or may not get a director title in your first couple of years. The best way is to get a personal introduction through a friend or colleague who is on their medical advisory board. Ask to be introduced to the CEO or GM.
    - For pharmaceutical companies, especially big pharma, with some clinical experience and NO prior pharma experience, expect to start at a low level. MSL (Medical Science Liaison) could be a starting point. Salaries vary, but average is around $100k + 10-15% bonus and some stock options (usually not worth much in an established company, but still). If you do well in this very competitive position, expect to move up in a couple years, with salaries for experienced MSLs ranging from $140-190k, and somewhat better bonus.
    - next step would be director position, but you will have to have several years (5+) of pharma experience and an excellent track record. If your clinical medical experience was of short duration (completed residency), you will be on the "business" side of things, not the clinical trials/R&D. This is not bad, especially if you already have an MBA and some practical business experience. Good luck!!

    There's an MSL group on Linked-In.
  17. DrJosephKim

    DrJosephKim Advisor SDN Advisor

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    These 2005 salary #s are definitely not reflective of 2012-2013. Also, keep in mind that due to recent mergers/acquisitions of major pharma companies (like Wyeth, Schering Plough, etc.), we have seen some significant reductions/elimination of medical director positions within pharma.
  18. Frazier

    Frazier turtle in a rabbit race Lifetime Donor

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    That's a very interesting point. :thumbup:
  19. danrubi

    danrubi

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    Just wanted to add my 2 cents from being in the industry for 2 years and now trying to get into medical school:

    • While companies want to get more and more physicians in there, with tightened budgets, it's getting harder to justify
    • Therefore, it's getting very competitive to get an industry job. You truly need to have some sort of industry experience to get the role - clinical research is a good way. If possible, there may be opportunities to participate in advisory boards or collaborative research
    Also, smaller biotechs or pharma companies may be a good opportunity to gain experience before jumping to larger ones. I've noticed this trend recently as Director positions are harder to get so MDs seem to be going to smaller firms before coming to the larger ones. Good luck!
  20. Guyton Killah

    Guyton Killah

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    :thumbup::thumbup::thumbup:
  21. blazer123

    blazer123

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    If i am a current medical student, is there any way of getting experience on working on clinical trials and if that will be helpful in getting a foot in the door in industry?
  22. achamess

    achamess

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    I'm an MD-PhD student, and after talking to some physician-scientists in industry, I'm realizing that industry can offer another route to doing quality medical research w/o the hassle and politics or funding issues of academia. But here is my question - can you still have clinical (patient care) responsibilities? Say I'm a physician-scientist for a Novartis or GSK, and I'm managing a research unit most of the time, but 1 d/week, I want to actually see and treat patients. Is that possible or realistic? Does anyone actually do that? And patient care needn't be at an academic center. That's one of the benefits of this route actually - I could have way more geographic and professional flexibility. I could work w/ a private practice, which there are many to choose from.

    What do you think?
  23. pazzer2

    pazzer2 Member

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    Hello all:

    Its been nearly 7 years while since I originally posted this message. The salaries certainly have changed, but the basic ways to enter the pharma industry have not.

    To answer some of the questions that have been raised along the way:

    #7 (Prominence): As a physician in the industry I oversee a team of people who in turn make sure that the study is being done properly. I don't see any patients myself. I am responsible for designing, analyzing and reporting the results from my studies. For this I recruit from sites around the world who specialize in industry sponsored studies. I interact with the FDA and other health authorities around the world whenever questions come up and I am ultimately responsible for monitoring the ongoing efficacy and safety of my compounds.

    #10 (Prominence): Yes I've published the results of every single study I've worked on over the years. Each study gets presented as an abstract/poster first. We also present each poster at several meetings. I've probably published more than most academic MDs. Over the last 10 years, I have published about 90-100 posters and manuscripts.

    #12 (Redruckus): I once met a sales rep at Lilly who was a foreign trained MD. This is highly unusual. The starting salary for sales reps is much lower so it may not be worth your time to pursue a career in sales. Its difficult to get your foot in the door without prior sales experience as well.

    #14 (PMmetoHelp): I made the transition from FM to pharma because I had built up experience over several summers in various pharma companies as an intern. By the time I finished my residency I had already amassed experience in several key pharma areas. So I luckily found a company who was willing to take a chance and train me.

    #21 (blazer123): To get experience while as a medical student, I suggest to find any attendings at your school who are working on pharma sponsored studies. There are hundreds of pharma studies going on at any given time. Depending on your specialty I'm sure you can find an attending. Look at Centerwatch. Once you find someone at your school doing clinical research, approach them and offer to help. The experience you get doing this will set you apart.

    #22 (achamess): I still practice part time as an emergency room physician. I've been doing so for the last 12+ years. I know some MDs at my company who go to the hospital on a regular schedule (once or twice a month). Pharma companies hire MDs because of their clinical experience, so they value anything that you can do to retain your knowledge.

    Regarding salaries: The amounts that I posted in 2005 should be upwardly adjusted by 15-20%. The stock and options can become quite lucrative over time. The amount of money I make on my stocks/options each year is now approx 75% of my annual base salary. My annual pay + bonus + stocks + options is now in the range of $500K. So as you progress farther in your career, the long-term incentives from stock/options can be huge. The amount of money I'm making now pales in comparison to what I would have made if I had stayed in practice. Plus no headaches of insurance and malpractice.
  24. CopperStripes

    CopperStripes Member

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    Great info, Pazzer; thanks! Can you provide any details about various roles aside from clinical trials a MD can take on in a pharma company, such as medical affairs, MSL, drug safety, pharmacovigilance, etc?
  25. Everglore

    Everglore

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    Hey fellow Doc ,

    sounds like you want to leave the clinical field like I do...

    Can you tell me exactly why would you opt for industry ? I mean why industry in particular ?

    I am trying to research all my options in order to decide what I am going to do cause I am afraid that a career in pharma will make me stuck in the Lab most of the time which may sound a lil boring . i want to combine research with other aspects in consulting.
  26. Marika11

    Marika11 Senior Member

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    Thanks for making this thread OP, very helpful.

    I was wondering if there is any discrimination against D.O.'s from pharma companies when hiring? Do they look only for someone with an MD degree, or do they not distinguish between the two?
  27. FutureDO2016

    FutureDO2016

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    I would love to learn more as well. I'm currently in a DO school but are only MDs accepted into the MSL position? Also, any advice on how to "volunteer" and gain experience in clinical trials. I tried emailing PI's from but most have ignored my email.
  28. macattack83

    macattack83

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    Hi, really enjoyed this post, thank you very much.

    I am a MD in the UK but I'm a qualified pharmacist aswel (I know too many years at University).

    I'm looking to change from public sector into the pharmaceutical industry. With the above qualifications, any advice on how best to approach it?
  29. sanabcd

    sanabcd

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    Hi Pazzer, I am a foreign trained dentist with an experience of around 6 years in the pharmaceutical industry ( Business Research and analytics). I will be relocating to the US shortly. If you have any idea then please can you let me know about the opportunities available in the corporate world in and around San Francisco that I can explore? thanks a lot...

    PS: You are doing a splendid job with your posts :)
  30. Liquidice07

    Liquidice07

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    Thanks for the great info!
  31. nope80

    nope80 Resident

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  32. graddoc2013

    graddoc2013

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    is it tough to find a job in pharma industry if you have a MD from IMG with 2 years of US clinical but no residency training
  33. Sealer

    Sealer

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    Very useful thread. Thanks!
    I'm planning a career in pharm R&D. Do you have any advice for choosing residency type? Would university-based, more research-oriented residency be better? Or community-based (may be in a large hospital with ongoing phase III cl. trials) will do?

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