This page contains information on the specialty of pharmaceutical medicine, a higher medical specialty recruiting to ST3-level vacancies.

Please note - pharmaceutical medicine is not participating in the national Physician ST3 recruitment process.

The specialty

Pharmaceutical medicine is a specialty that for many years has played a pivotal role in bringing medicines to patients to address areas of unmet medical need, and in recent years has become more formally structured in terms of professional and educational development.

The main attraction of pharmaceutical medicine is the ability to work in a challenging and dynamic environment, which is different from clinical medicine but still requires the skills and competencies of a physician, with the benefit of helping thousands or even millions of patients by bringing valuable medicines to those who need them most.

Pharmaceutical medicine trainee characteristics

Pharmaceutical medicine will particularly suit trainees who are:

  • seeking an alternative career, outside clinical medicine

  • stimulated by the drug development process, from discovery to marketing, from molecule to medicine

  • able to think innovatively and 'outside the box'

  • excellent at communicating - whether that be to healthcare professionals, regulatory bodies, clinical trial investigators, prescribers or purchasers.

Working in pharmaceutical medicine

Pharmaceutical medicine is a medical specialty concerned with the discovery, development, evaluation, licensing and monitoring of medicines and the medical aspects of their marketing.

A career in pharmaceutical medicine is a medical career with a difference. Doctors enter pharmaceutical medicine for a variety of reasons but all do so because they are excited and inspired to work on the development of medicines that will ultimately enhance the quality of life of many, many patients around the world.

A number of experienced pharmaceutical physicians work as independent consultants, however most work in three main types of organisation: - pharmaceutical companies - from very large companies such as Pfizer and GlaxoSmithKline to very small start-up organisations with just one product in development - clinical research organisations - medicines regulatory agencies.

Physician roles within pharmaceutical companies can range across virtually all disciplines but generally fall into either Clinical Research or Medical Affairs roles.

The specialty of pharmaceutical medicine is currently going from strength to strength and the future is certainly bright. From a brand new specialty in 2002 there are today over 160 pharmaceutical physicians who have completed specialty training, but there are over 200 currently in training, making it the 11th largest specialty (by trainee numbers) in the UK.

Despite there being a historic lack of awareness about medical careers with the pharmaceutical industry and what pharmaceutical physicians do, this is changing as the specialty blossoms.

Although pharmaceutical medicine is outside the traditional ST3 recruitment structure, the requirements for entry into Pharmaceutical Medicine Specialty Training (PMST) are completion of foundation training plus 2 yrs of training in any medical or surgical specialty or general practice.

Hence the entry point to the specialty is very often at 'ST3' level. However, applicants for PMST must already be in a recognised post and practising pharmaceutical medicine.

Career profiles

Below are shown some extracts from interviews with two members of the faculty of pharmaceutical medicine (FPM), giving an insight into the career of physicians in pharmaceutical medicine.