Nontraditional pharmacy roles that you never knew existed

Pharmacy Roles in Pharmaceutical Industry

Most PharmD students know that their degree can land them a career in the pharmaceutical industry, but what exactly do people with a PharmD degree do in these companies?

According to Pharmaceutical Sciences Associate Professor Bhagwat Prasad and Director of Industry Engagement at the college, Doctor of Pharmacy of students are highly sought-after candidates in the pharmaceutical industry. Not only do they have the scientific knowledge to comprehend how drug therapy works, but they also have the practical patient care skills to know how therapies will be delivered, whether it’s by doctors or at home. Positions for Doctor of Pharmacy graduates in pharmaceutical industry range from marketing and sales, drug manufacturing and quality control, medical communication, regulatory affairs, health economics to clinical research and development of drug therapies. In addition, many graduates with a PharmD get involved with clinical drug trials as well as helping to establish safe guidelines and quality control for drugs.

“A lot of students who pursue a Doctor of Pharmacy degree don’t realize the vast opportunities available to them in the pharmaceutical industry. Our college makes an effort to expose our students to various jobs in industry and share the many career paths available to them. Getting a PharmD allows for a lot of flexibility in careers—especially now during the pandemic. Not only can graduates work in a community pharmacy, but they can be crucial in helping to develop effective drug therapies and effective medical communications between industry and healthcare providers,” said Prasad. “The PharmD/PhD dual degree program can also help expedite this career growth.”

Pharmacy Roles in Government

Did you know that pharmacists are needed in a variety of government agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)? Forensic pharmacists and drug diversion investigators are just some of the positions requiring a background in pharmacy. Investigators have a variety of responsibilities including evaluating drug-related evidence in court cases or investigating causes of death by assessing a person’s medical record, illegal drug habits, prescription medication, and other factors.

Pharmacotherapy Associate Professor Megan Undeberg remarks on the time she was approached by the FBI to offer her expertise on an order of saltpeter three years after 9/11. Saltpeter, a chemical compound with a variety of uses was rumored to reduce libido in military recruits and used for explosives and weapons during the Civil War.

“At least the agent had a little sense of humor; he confirmed they were investigating the saltpeter/explosive connection. So, with a little investigation on the pharmacy side and discussing with the agent, we were able to figure out the purchase in question was utilized by a local farmer as a fumigant and around the grain storage facilities to keep rodents out of the grain,” said Undeberg. “Thus, case closed. But the upside, the agent told me if I were ever interested in another angle of work to give them a call and they could put me to work with a job opportunity with the FBI!”

Undeberg also notes that pharmacy careers with the government often expand to include agencies such as the Indian Health Services, the military, the US Public Health Service, as well as Veterans Affairs.

Drug diversion experts are used in government agencies and within institutions such as hospitals and pharmacies to ensure that controlled pharmaceuticals which are dispensed by health care providers are in compliance with regulatory requirements. Diversion investigators are responsible for sleuthing out employees who falsify records and subsequently sell drugs and looking into those who may be stealing inventory or falsifying orders to cover illicit sales, or even track down prescription forgers.

Pharmacotherapy Associate Professor Julie Akers says that pharmacists are often asked to provide expert testimony in administrative, civil, and criminal cases based on their specialties. Akers has reviewed several Washington state administrative cases and has testified at hearings. She has also worked on federal criminal cases related to controlled substances.

“The ability to utilize my training and knowledge of state and federal statutes and regulates to assure safe care is provided to patients is rewarding. Having a pharmacist review a case that is not only familiar with the laws and rules, but also has years of experience in practice, allows for an in-depth review including standards of care, workflow constraints, and other factors that may influence pharmacist decision making in practice,” said Akers. “I appreciate working on administrative cases, as there is no pressure or influence to come to a decision on guilt or innocence. The goal is to objectively review case findings and make a recommendation if the case should be dropped or continue on to a hearing.”

Pharmacy Informatics

Pharmacy informatics may seem a bit abstract, but that’s because it is a relatively young and quickly evolving field. According to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), the pharmacist’s role in clinical informatics is data, information, and knowledge management; information and knowledge delivery; practice analytics; applied clinical informatics; and leadership and management of change. Pharmacy informatics position work in a variety of settings including health systems such as hospitals, the FDA, academia, National Institutes of Health and much more.

“What we do is basically answer questions with data, and we do that by developing different dashboards, analytical tools, and reports that our executive leadership team and pharmacy leadership team uses to solve issues related to pharmacy operations, pharmacy finance, or pharmacy clinical data, and figure out essentially the best route forward for the organization,” said Gabe Arguinchona, who graduated from the college in 2019, during an interview with CPPS. Arguinchona currently works at Kaiser Permanente as a Pharmacy Analytics & Business Intelligence Manager.

You can learn more about the field of pharmacy informatics by considering our dual degree program to receive your master’s or certificate in Engineering and Technology Management along with your Doctor of Pharmacy degree.