Virtually everything the whole medical profession relies on is produced by the pharmaceutical industry. Everything a doctor prescribes, a hospital stocks, or we buy off the shelves in the chemists comes from the various pharmaceutical companies out there.

Pharmacist jobs

Pharmacists are the professionals that the general public encounters the most in the pharmaceutical industry. They provide expert advice on the use and supply of drugs and medicines. A pharmacist’s work includes checking prescriptions, dispensing medicines and making sure that laws controlling medicines are followed.

A pharmacist could be based at a retail location as a community pharmacist, or at a hospital pharmacy, working in the NHS or at a private hospital. As a community pharmacist in a retail location, work could include giving healthcare advice and help to the public, delivering medication to people who are unable to leave home, and preparing medicines bought at the counter. They also give advice on how to use medicines correctly, including dosage and any risks involved, as well as ordering and controlling stock.

A pharmacist working in a hospital setting would have many of the same responsibilities, as well as visiting wards, and buying, quality testing and distributing medicines throughout the hospital. They might also be supervising trainees and junior pharmacists

Another option is to work as a pharmacist within a local NHS service. This could involve giving advice to GPs on prescribing, running clinics at a GP practice and training local prescribers on issues related to managing and prescribing medicines. Pharmacists can also work in education or in industry, carrying out research into new medicines and running clinical trials.

Pharmaceutical production jobs

On the production side of the pharmaceutical industry, Britain has a particularly strong reputation. Seven of the world’s top 25 medicines were produced in British laboratories, one in five of the world's biggest-selling prescription drugs were developed in the UK, and with £4.3 billion currently being invested each year into pharmaceutical research and development, there are bound to be more contributions over the next few years. The UK is home to GlaxoSmithKline and AstraZeneca, respectively the world's fifth- and sixth-largest pharmaceutical companies measured by 2009 market share. As such, there are many jobs available in this side of the industry.

Once medicines have been developed, the manufacturing begins. Those involved in producing these pharmaceutical products will be trying to find the most cost-effective method to produce them. Once the drug compounds have been extracted, designed and tested, the trials begin. Following 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.

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 those going into this industry could work in roles such as production manager, an engineer or part of the factory floor staff.

Pharmaceuticals apprenticeships

School leavers can access this industry via apprenticeships, like pharmacy technicians and assistants apprenticeships. On an Internediate Apprenticeship you’ll be working as a dispensing and pharmacy assistant undertaking a variety of supervised tasks within the pharmacy. Your duties will vary depending on the setting, but may include:

  • selling over-the-counter medicines
  • collecting prescriptions
  • generating labels
  • ordering and storing pharmaceutical stock
  • providing information on symptoms and products to customers

On the Advanced Apprenticeship you’ll support the pharmacist as a pharmacy technician. You’ll:

  • dispense medicines and products
  • provide information and advice
  • control stocks of pharmaceutical materials

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