oscardagrouch

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I have been working towards getting into the pharm industry since I got out of residency almost 2 years ago, and have used this thread as a guide. The post by pazzer2 is very informative. I am a family medicine doc, and I work in an outpatient practice, M-F. My partner at the office happens to own a clinical research company (which he owned prior to being bought out by the group we work for now, but still maintains complete ownership) and has taken me under his wing. I work as a clinical research physician for him, for free, so I can get the necessary experience. I have been doing this for nearly 2 years.

Over the past 6 months or so, I have been applying to pharmaceutical jobs that I figure I meet the requirements for. I'm not aiming really high (like Senior Medical Director etc.,) but I'm applying to positions such as Associate Medical Director, Med Safety, and Physician Adviser. I have yet to get any interviews or calls about the positions that I apply for.

Does anyone out there have any insight into where I should start looking for jobs, or positions that would be suitable for someone with my experience? Should I work elsewhere to gain additional experience?
 

OxToCA

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Does anyone out there have any insight into where I should start looking for jobs, or positions that would be suitable for someone with my experience? Should I work elsewhere to gain additional experience?
I'd start by using the following website to find companies in the state you're planning to work in http://biopharmguy.com/links/states-all-geo.php. Aiming for Merck, Pfizer, etc at first is a bad idea IMO since it's a lot easier to be hired at smaller and/or newer pharmaceutical companies. Next, you have to apply for a position that their website does or doesn't list, but how you go about that is really important.

Developing a pitch and/or plan for how you can add value to the company that also demonstrates your knowledge of their drug pipeline is what I'd advise. I say so since their goals should be your goals inclusive of generating investments in their drug candidates, making business deals (e.g. in/out-licensing, M&A's, etc) with other companies, streamlining clinical development (e.g. biomarkers, academic collaborations, etc), starting clinical trials, working with the FDA, publishing, etc. In other words, you have to sell yourself as having the ability to meet a need that will generate more profit than they'll pay you for, since otherwise, you wouldn't be worth hiring in the first place.

I'm not as far along as you are in your career, so I more or less conveyed to a company how a publishable manuscript and national conference I can respectively write and present a poster at can be utilized to support a foundation award, which is similar in purpose to a mini-fellowship/sabbatical at one of Harvard's teaching hospitals http://gordon.mgh.harvard.edu/gc/clinical-translation/ and the biotech training program at CalTech http://www.bbe.caltech.edu/biotechnology-leadership. Since most people here aren't at these Universities, an industry-related MSc and/or fellowship is basically the same thing and probably the easiest way to gain the experience that pharmaceutical companies are looking for; another poster in this thread described those at https://forums.studentdoctor.net/threads/physicians-in-the-pharmaceutical-industry.243278/#post-16809692, and I'm attending a different one.
 
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neglect

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I have been working towards getting into the pharm industry since I got out of residency almost 2 years ago, and have used this thread as a guide. The post by pazzer2 is very informative. I am a family medicine doc, and I work in an outpatient practice, M-F. My partner at the office happens to own a clinical research company (which he owned prior to being bought out by the group we work for now, but still maintains complete ownership) and has taken me under his wing. I work as a clinical research physician for him, for free, so I can get the necessary experience. I have been doing this for nearly 2 years.

Over the past 6 months or so, I have been applying to pharmaceutical jobs that I figure I meet the requirements for. I'm not aiming really high (like Senior Medical Director etc.,) but I'm applying to positions such as Associate Medical Director, Med Safety, and Physician Adviser. I have yet to get any interviews or calls about the positions that I apply for.

Does anyone out there have any insight into where I should start looking for jobs, or positions that would be suitable for someone with my experience? Should I work elsewhere to gain additional experience?
Have you considered simply staying put, buying into and growing that clinical research company? I've been doing that for the last 8 years or so (the only difference is that I founded mine as a part of a clinical practice) and have found it to be increcribly rewarding. Personally speaking, I love getting subjects into trials, dealing with experimental therapies first hand, addressing the challenges and rewards of conducting trials. I've come to appreciate the business aspects. While my current focus is neurology, I see a bright future in other therapeutic areas. There will also be more business as more and more sponsors and CROs bypass academia and huge hospital systems. I hope to be working on the first disease modifying drug in Alzheimer's disease now - and as soon as that happens the trial field will explode. Or Trump appoints ONeil, drugs don't have to be shown effective, and it all falls apart.

I've been in exactly the position that @pazzer2 spoke about: fellowship training in a hot pharma target. But now I don't even take interviews. First of all, for me to leave my current position, I'd have to have a legitimate offer with the sort of option package that Pazzer has (and no-way that's going to happen without a decade or so inside pharma). And even if I won that sort of lottery, I'd still have to think about the role, the company, and the project.

The first reason for the skepticism is the numbers. Compensation is already more than I dreamed of as a neurologist thanks in part to the trials. Past a certain point, it doesn't seem to matter that much, and the personal takes hold. Have you considered the fact that you will: have to move? Most likely have a low-man-on-totem-pole position for years in a silo with very little decision making of consequence? Will have to travel for work? May not be working on anything exciting?

To the above advice, which is exceptional, I would add an ancient one: know yourself. Know what you want, make personal decisions that are good for you, your family, and your values. There is a huge human element here. Once you become a known quantity in the industry, people will take note. Go to those conferences and IM meetings and be nice, hard working, have some knowledge, and enthusiasm. There's a ton of movement all the time, so you never know who's going to be able to help you out in 2018. I would also advise anyone interested to restrict their focus. After years inside pharma, one could change from something like HTN to oncology without missing a beat. But all my friends who are now in pharma (it works for them) were working on the same disease state before and after.
 
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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 Home - 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 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.
Thank you for your post!!! Sorry if this reply is very late. But I had a couple questions if you don't mind:

1. Many big-pharma companies offer post-doctoral fellowships through the company itself. Would it be possible for a resident with extensive research experience during and before medical school to join a post-doc fellowship through the company?

2. How often do neurosurgeons and surgeons in general enter the pharmaceutical industry, as neuro-oncology is a huge domain of practice for them?

3. Can you still practice medicine on the side?
 

QueenJames

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Any opportunities for those in primary care fields ... like IM, FM, etc.?
 

missymiss

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@pazzer2

Thank you all for these insightful posts. I am a US medical student now low looking into residency programs. I wanted to ask if a degree in medical genetics would be useful in the pharm industry today? Predictive medicine is where healthcare is headed.
 

britesky89

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@pazzer2

Is it possible to get into the pharmaceutical industry with an MD without residency? If so, what's the best way to get you foot in the door?
 
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Thank you for your post!!! Sorry if this reply is very late. But I had a couple questions if you don't mind:

1. Many big-pharma companies offer post-doctoral fellowships through the company itself. Would it be possible for a resident with extensive research experience during and before medical school to join a post-doc fellowship through the company?

2. How often do neurosurgeons and surgeons in general enter the pharmaceutical industry, as neuro-oncology is a huge domain of practice for them?

3. Can you still practice medicine on the side?
Anybody???
 

pazzer2

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Hello - Its been more than 5 years since I logged onto this site. So my apologies. I don't routinely monitor this site. But I'll try to answer the questions:

@CopperStripes: Medical affairs is a group within most pharma companies that handles everything after Phase 3 is completed. All of the post-marketing trials, and everything supporting a launch. The medical affairs role involves a lot of schomoozing with KOLs and attending a lot of scientific/medical meetings. Within medical affairs, a group of Medical Science Liasions (MSLs) handle relationships with key KOLs. The MSLs focus on investigator sponsored research. The MSL is not a glorified drug-rep, but instead someone with an advanced degree (PharmD, PhD, MD, etc) who interacts with senior academic types. Drug safety is an entirely different beast. Within drug safety physicians monitor the ongoing safety profile of marketed compounds. Looking at signals for new adverse drug reactions. This is what pharmacovigilance is all about. Those within drug safety often have specialized training in public health, epidemiology, etc.

@Marika11: There generally isn't any discrimination between DOs and MDs when hiring. As long as the person has the necessary board certifications, I could care less. I'm more impressed with experience than degrees.

@FutureDO2016: Just seek any faculty member, or nearby research site that is doing clinical trials. Look at Centerwatch. Just call them up and ask if you can volunteer.

@graddoc2013: having an MD/DO degree without any residency training will indeed make it difficult to find a job in pharma. Especially without any clinical trial experience.

@DocEntrepreneur: Most pharma companies allow people to maintain their license, and even work in a clinical setting part time. The requirements for CME and other licensure stuff varies by state.

@CharlesDarnay: Quality of life is excellent as a pharma physician. I can work from home whenever I want. I go and pickup my kids from school at 3 pm every day. I manage a large team located all over the world. As long as I get my work done, no one bothers me. No weekends, no call, no holidays. I travel all over the world. My Google Scholar H-Index of 50. Over 150 published works with 7000 citations. I have at least 3-5 headhunters calling me every week to inquire about a new job. Total all in compensation is approaching $750K per year. Life is pretty damn good.

@dr_reddevil: yes having a foreign degree won't limit you. Just try and get relevant experience. Being a medical safety reviewer is a good way to start. Many pharma companies hire nurses or FMGs for this type of work. Get your foot in the door anyway that you can.

@MDviaMBB: definitely agree with the masters programs. UCSF and Stanford are well known. There are others too: Duke, Harvard, George Washington. If you can afford it, this is a great way to build your resume.

@Alakazam123: yes the pharma sponsored fellowships are the easiest way to get your foot in the door. But they are few and far between. Abbott used to have one many years ago, not sure if they still do. Yes many of the docs I work with still practice on the side. See my previous posts.

@missymiss: medical genetics is not really a hot field. There are plenty of PhDs with genetics that I can hire if I have a problem. The most needed fields are those in which many clinical trials are being done (oncology, cardiology, neurology, diabetes, etc). See my original post from 2005.

@britesky89 : sorry almost impossible to get into the clinical trials aspect of pharma without a residency. You might be able to get into something like marketing or sales without any clinical experience. But your career progression would be limited.
 

pazzer2

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@Alakazam123 Not too many surgeons in pharma. Reason being is that their expertise is limited to surgical skills. In clinical trials we need relevant specialist experience (oncologists, neurologists, psychiatrists, etc).

The exception is in medical device fields. Surgeons are needed to help with design, monitoring of safety and responding to health authority queries. But these jobs are far fewer in number. Look at companies that make a lot of medical devices (Ethicon, Boston Scientific, Zimmer, etc).
 
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@Alakazam123 Not too many surgeons in pharma. Reason being is that their expertise is limited to surgical skills. In clinical trials we need relevant specialist experience (oncologists, neurologists, psychiatrists, etc).

The exception is in medical device fields. Surgeons are needed to help with design, monitoring of safety and responding to health authority queries. But these jobs are far fewer in number. Look at companies that make a lot of medical devices (Ethicon, Boston Scientific, Zimmer, etc).
Thank you for the detailed answers!! How would a physician go about being a contractor for a pharma company? Do they post up a "contractor" opportunity on LinkedIn, or do you have to reach out to them somehow and say that you're willing to offer services?
 

rotarman

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@Alakazam123 Not too many surgeons in pharma. Reason being is that their expertise is limited to surgical skills. In clinical trials we need relevant specialist experience (oncologists, neurologists, psychiatrists, etc).

The exception is in medical device fields. Surgeons are needed to help with design, monitoring of safety and responding to health authority queries. But these jobs are far fewer in number. Look at companies that make a lot of medical devices (Ethicon, Boston Scientific, Zimmer, etc)
I don't have anywhere even close to the experience with physicians in pharma that pazzer2 does, so take this with a grain of salt. But I have met multiple interventional docs (surgeons/OB/IR) at a top 10 pharma company. Primarily in medical affairs. This area doesn't seem to care as much about specialty since they are dealing with adverse events in every organ system.
However there definitely are many fewer surgeons. I would guess (and only a guess) that the pay, particularly early on, is less likely to be acceptable to a busy surgeon vs a neurologist/psych/IM. Also burnout has been the most common reason docs made the jump for those I've spoken with, and data shows burnout is a lot less common in say Dermatologists or Urologists than specialties like IM. Surgery or medicine though everyone seems to love their job in pharma.