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Experiential Learning in a Pharmaceutical Company

07 Mar 2018

An IMU third-year pharmacy student, Brian Tay Wei Yang from BP115 cohort had the opportunity to perform his internship in Abbott Laboratories (specifically Established Pharmaceutical Division, EPD) for 3 months. It is part of the electives module in Semester 6 where students acquire experience, knowledge and enhanced competencies in pharmacy-related or non-pharmacy related activities in healthcare and industry. He relates his experience working at the Business Development Department and Marketing Department of Abbott Laboratories. Business Development Department Pharmaceutical companies are constantly sourcing new products that could benefit the community, from the humble vitamins up to antimetabolites for cancer management. It might sound simple, just find a new product then introduce it to the market. But the process behind it is far more complex than I have ever imagined. Before the sourcing begins, it is important to know the current dynamics of the market, the problems faced by the community and the bringing in of products that could tackle these problems. The important role of a pharmacist then comes into play – to evaluate the active ingredients of the new product to the current treatment options. Take diabetes management as an example, one of the latest drugs available is SGLT-2 inhibitors (gliflozins). There are few questions that need to be answered if you want to introduce it to the market: What is the efficacy of this new drug compared to the traditional metformin? What are the side effects of the new drug that could potentially affect patient compliance? Will it be cost effective for patient from all income groups? Once it is identified that the new drug can bring benefits to the patient, the regulatory affairs manager will be required to assist in registering the product with National Pharmaceutical Regulatory Agency (NPRA).

For me, working in this Department had made me realise that IMU have equipped me with the basic knowledge of diseases and medications. Now, it is up to me to constantly update myself with the latest management plan for the better good of the society.

Marketing Department Under the Marketing Department, I was given a chance to create new brochures under the guidance of two brand managers. All brochures are considered as a form of advertisement which are bound to the Medicine Advertisement Act. Therefore, it is a plus point for a pharmacist to do this as we are aware of the details in this act. The challenge that I faced was that there is too much information to be put into a single brochure. The brand managers told me  that there are many aspects that need to be considered before deciding on the information to be put in the brochure, and the most important aspect is to know your target audience. All information gathered need to be from a reliable source and is tailored to the targeted audience.

It is also the responsibility of the pharmaceutical company to inform doctors and pharmacists on the latest updates of a disease management plan. I was given the opportunity to observe a Continuing Medical Education (CME) – Vertigo Forum 2017 which was held in the month of October. The key speaker of the event is Prof Michael Strupp from Germany, an expert in vertigo, dizziness and balance disorder, where he shared his experience in treating vertigo patients.

From there, I learnt that the Marketing Department is not merely involved in designing posters and promotional materials. It is also about conveying the right knowledge without bias to the consumers to allow better choices to be made for better healthcare. I am grateful to Abbott Laboratories for their willingness to accept me for this internship and for sharing their knowledge and expertise with me throughout this internship. The knowledge I have gained is priceless and is beneficial to me in the long run. I would recommend those who are interested in the corporate world to give this a shot and apply for this internship to gain some insights and a taste of it.

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