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Auditing the pharmaceutical industry

The career opportunities for pharmacists in industry are extensive says Hannah Le. Keep an open mind and don’t limit yourself — you might discover the career you always wanted, but never knew existed.

Hannah Le

Courtesy . of Hannah Le

Hannah Le is an internal audit manager at GSK Global.

How did the early years of your career influence your career path?

I undertook my preregistration training at a small independent community pharmacy in Shepherd’s Bush in London, after graduating from the London School of Pharmacy in 2010. I then worked for a homeopathic pharmacy and as a locum pharmacist across the Greater London area. In 2013, I joined an emergency toxicology and medicines information services company that provided a 24/7 response service for information relating to clinical trials, medicines and veterinary poisons. The interaction with various pharmaceutical companies led me to apply for a drug safety position at GSK, where I progressed to senior drug safety advisor and later team manager in 2017, before assuming my current role as audit manager within GSK’s Audit & Assurance function.

Why did you choose to pursue a career in the pharmaceutical industry?

The pharmaceutical industry offers a broad range of career opportunities and exposure to a variety of sectors such as medicines information, brand management and medical and regulatory affairs, which collectively work towards improving patient care. Working within the pharmaceutical industry has allowed me to develop and progress in a career which aligns with my interests, particularly in drug development, product launches and the maintenance of product licences in the post-approval setting.

What tasks and responsibilities are involved in your role?

I spend most of my time engaging auditees and other business stakeholders in a way that inspires and builds trust; to deepen their understanding of risk and the internal control framework — a number of processes and elements that ensures GSK is compliant with laws and regulations and that the company is mitigating risks. Audits are performed at a moment in time and potential issues are identified before they become real issues. We try to operate in a way to deliver timely and meaningful audit reports to the business and help the business to improve the way it manages its risks by providing a holistic view of risk management.

Where does your position sit within the organisation and within the field of pharmacy?

My position sits within the Audit & Assurance department. Audit & Assurance provides an objective view of risk management at a certain point in time; driving action before possible issues become real problems. This ensures patient interests and safety are protected and that pharmaceutical companies such as GSK are working to the standards that regulators, healthcare professionals and patients expect.

What do you enjoy most about the role and what challenges do you face?

I mainly focus on the research and development (R&D) function which is vast. The exposure to R&D departments across the globe has broadened my knowledge and appreciation of how important it is to collaborate and work together to bring a product to market, as well as maintain a product licence that can improve a patient’s quality of life.

The biggest challenge is maintaining a good work–life balance. As an audit manager, there is a fair amount of international business travel involved, which means time away from friends and family at home.

How relevant is your pharmacy qualification to your current role?

The medical terminology, understanding of the pharmacological and physiological action of drugs within the body, and a product’s life cycle from phase I studies to post marketing have all been relevant to my current role. My pharmacy qualification allows me to engage with R&D stakeholders and auditees with greater ease and appreciate where the risk areas may be and how to mitigate them.

What skills and attributes do you think are essential for a successful career in the pharmaceutical industry?

I think it is always important to be inquisitive; there are many different departments working collaboratively and so many opportunities available. Being curious and eager to learn not only builds and strengthens your knowledge and capability, it also helps develop a greater understanding and appreciation of the pharmaceutical industry as a whole.

Internal auditing requires the ability to read, retain and understand masses of information in a short space of time. Understanding key processes improves engagement levels with auditees and stakeholders, which in turn delivers meaningful outputs.

How does the training and professional support needs of industry pharmacists differ from those in other sectors?

Even though industry pharmacists are not directly involved in the therapeutic care of patients, the training and professional support remains the same. Being able to communicate effectively with a wide audience, maintaining knowledge of diseases and the current market, and continuing professional development are required by all pharmacists with the only difference being the application.

What advice would you give to pharmacists wishing to enter the pharmaceutical industry?

Keep an open mind and don’t limit yourself! The scope of industry careers where pharmacists are valued is extensive. Do your research, and you might discover the career you always wanted but never knew existed.

Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2017.20203830

Readers' comments (1)

  • Michael Achiampong

    Thanks for this fascinating insight into the global pharma industry. At this time of unprecedented attrition for community pharmacy, I feel that this article is a timely reminder of the transferability of knowledge and skills the pharmacy degree and many years of practice could help grass roots practitioners like me to transition into the broader pharma industry.

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