Monthly Archives: November 2010

Current State of the Pharmaceutical Industry

Eamonn’s recent contribution for the Sunday Business Post

Recruitment within the pharmaceutical sector has been quite stable over the last 12 months, with losses in certain departments, offset by gains in others. The pharmaceutical sector in Ireland seems to have been quasi-resistant to prevailing economic conditions, primarily due to the fact that product pipeline cycles within the sector can last between 12 – 20 years, so any intermittent instability in the financial markets have little, if any, effect on ongoing projects.

Areas such as quality within the manufacturing arms of the sector have suffered due to an oversupply of staff, combined with the shelving of many new initiatives, while areas such as corporate quality, medical affairs and sales and marketing have blossomed. Companies are placing greater emphasis on service, delivery and education regarding their products in the field.

Recent Job Losses
The main focus of job losses in the past 18 months within the pharmaceutical sector have been as a result of the numerous mergers and acquisitions that have occurred. Schering Plough and Merck merged their operations; the consequent consultation and restructuring process lead to the announcement of the winding down of operations at Schering Plough Bray. The Bray plant manufactures veterinary pharmaceuticals and 240 jobs are expected to be lost over a staggered two year period continuing into next year. Pfizer also merged with Wyeth in 2009 to create the single largest global pharmaceutical entity; however the impact of this merger has yet to be fully felt here in Ireland yet.

Plans for Expansion within the Industry
A recent announcement in the press intonated the plans by Pharmadel, in conjunction with the IDA to create a global pharmaceutical centre of excellence in Tralee, with the potential creation of over 4000 jobs. Plans are underway to make this a reality and if they come to fruition, this feat will secure Ireland’s place in the international league tables as a leader in the provision of both manufacturing and professional services for the pharmaceutical sector globally.

Recent Trends
Many companies have adapted their recruitment processes over the last year to refocus efforts on improving their direct recruitment strategy for entry-level and high volume staff. Traditionally, recruitment of specialist and senior level staff within the pharmaceutical sector has been quite difficult and recent trends observed here at lifescience.ie indicate that employers will continue to use niche and specialist agencies to source and engage these elusive high-level staff, whilst adopting new direct strategies including social media and web 2.0 technologies to improve direct resourcing strategies for high volume and easier to find staff.

Salary Variance
Salaries within the sector are quite variable at the moment, with manufacturing and quality stabilising or deflating slightly, while salaries within the corporate, medical affairs, regulatory, sales and marketing areas staying stable or inflating very slightly.

Skills in Demand
The main skill-sets in demand at the moment are within commercial and medical affairs. These departments form part of the corporate function of the pharmaceutical company and deal with sales and marketing (commercial) and regulatory, medical information, medical liaison, pharmacovigilance and clinical research (medical). There has been a definite move to strengthen these departments over the last two years by the major players in the industry, to consolidate market share in the face of increased competition and to increase the level of education of key opinion leaders in the field, enhancing reputation and brand awareness.

Recruitment Expectations
In general, I expect recent trends of increased activity to continue well into next year with companies consolidating and streamlining manufacturing operations, strengthening their sales and marketing force, while further developing their medical affairs departments. Salaries will stabilise within manufacturing operations where there is an oversupply and may inflate slightly in medical and commercial where the specific skills-sets and experiential requirements are more in demand.

Healing a System – Connected Health

Our most recent article from Life Sciences Review – Q3 issue 2010. Original here

Connected Health – The Future?
Brian Christensen from Life Science Recruitment examines the current state of Connected Health and the opportunities that exist

Connected Health is the application of technology in order to make healthcare systems more efficient and effective. Much of it focuses of remote patient management. On a radio interview on 28th July 2010, when asked about his tenure, Prof. Brendan Drumm (Head of the HSE) said “the IT area, I think, is an area where we have to make huge progress – it is my one regret. When a Patient arrives I’d like to see them immediately linked up to the system in St Vincent’s Hospital (for example)”
Connected Health is primed to be one of the major growth areas in Ireland’s knowledge economy over the next number of years. According to a recent report by BioBusiness Ltd, (Connected Health in Ireland, An All-Island Review), Healthcare Technology, Connected Health and Medical Devices were identified as high potential growth areas, and that Ireland was uniquely positioned to capitalize on this potential due to its knowledge-based economy, highly skilled workforce and position in the EU.
Telehealth (remote healthcare management), a subset of Connected Health would also seem to be an area primed for growth. Although requiring significant initial investment, the potential gains to be made from it are immense. Simple changes such as less time being taken up by minor procedures / monitoring in hospitals means that a clinician can be more productive and save time, thus reducing the cost to the tax payer, or certainly getting more value for the tax payer. It might not be so easy in the beginning, but it certainly appears to be the way healthcare is moving.
The following account from a junior doctor in a national hospital highlights the problems first hand: “Radiology is undoubtedly at the epicenter off all things concerning patient management in the hospital. Rarely a patient diagnosis will be made or management decision decided upon without the use of CT, MRI, X-Ray or some other imaging modality. To this end, it is essential to have a quick turnaround time from time of scan ordering, scan completion to ultimately scan interpretation.”
The doctor went on to say “I will begin my day with a ward round, here my senior colleagues will delegate work for the day before they go off to theatre, while it is my role to care for the patients on the ward , both their standard post/pre-operative care or if they become acutely unwell for any reason. For efficient patient care to be actualized, quick interpretation of scans is paramount. Unfortunately however, without the use of an integrated PACS or other telehealth system much of my working day is occupied with frequent visits to the radiology department to ascertain various scans of current in-patients, often only to ultimately find out the scan has been lost; all the time detracting from patient care on the ward.”
The Irish government has invested vast sums of money in educating its doctors through medical school. Upon graduating the fledgling medics are equipped with an ability to obtain a medical history from a patient, hypothesize over a probable diagnosis and formulate a management plan. These skills are rarely practiced in the unconnected healthcare system though; the unofficial role of a junior doctor is to perform the laborious and logistic duties of compiling and organizing patient notes, tests and films, something a connected health system would achieve in the blink of an eye.
Given the constraints of the current austerity measures enforced the government, Mary Harney, the Minister for Health, is working within a limited healthcare budget. She has highlighted the excessive overtime situation experienced by the junior doctor as a key target of austerity measures. In current practices, it is highly impracticable for junior doctors to work within the confines of a 39 hour work week, due to reasons alluded to above. Having spoken to a number of junior doctors across the system, for those which incorporate PACS, junior doctor overtime is currently being reduced. Nationwide implementation of PACS, RIS and PAS will greatly improve efficiency in the healthcare systems and result in a decrease in the overtime experience by junior doctors.
Positive signs in this area have been seen recently. The HSE NIMIS (National Integrated Medical Imaging System) project is investing over €40m in providing state of the art electronic radiology systems for 35 Irish hospitals. NIMIS will make Ireland’s radiological services ‘filmless’ and enable secure and rapid movement of patient image data throughout the health service. This new imaging system will allow doctors to electronically view their patient’s diagnostic images, such as X-Rays and CT Scans, quickly and easily. The rapid access and availability of patient’s records to health professionals is a significant step for patient safety. NIMIS will be installed in 35 hospitals within a three year period starting from 2010.
From a job seeker’s point of view, this is just as exciting an area to look for progression. There are three main routes of entry; IT, scientific and clinical. From a scientific point-of-view areas such as LIMS (Laboratory Information Management Systems) and Computer System Validation in the life sciences can be of interest to companies providing connected health solutions. From a clinical perspective, technical radiographers are often attractive as potential candidates, especially on the client-facing side of the business. Their technical expertise and practical experience of the healthcare system ideally places them in a situation to act as trainer, mentor and mediator between the implementation team and the Client (hospital or healthcare institution).
As more public investment is necessarily allotted to this area, opportunities will exist for both professionals and companies to flourish, especially for those who have the necessary skills in the underlying areas of IT, medical devices and diagnostic radiography. Challenges exists though, particularly in the context of current policies in healthcare management, highlighted in the Connected Health Report by BioBusiness Ltd. Reform of management structures and policies are an essential prerequisite to the implementation of large scale connected health projects within Ireland leading to more efficient, more effective, more advanced and ultimately safer patient care.

Brian Christensen works with Life Science Recruitment. For more information log on to www.lifescience.ie

LinkedIn and Recruiter Behaviour

As regular readers of this blog will know we are huge fans of LinkedIn. As early adopters on the site we have seen things develop from the early days. We are all paid up Business account users. It is a superb resource to use, it gives unique access to high level contacts within organisations and visibility to candidates who might be on the lookout for suitable vacancies.

One slightly worrying development we are seeing, however, is recruiters who seem to have a slightly looser sense of ethics when it comes to using the site. In conversation with a friend who works in Medical Sales, she informs me that she is contacted almost on a daily basis by people via the site. When these approaches are genuine, researched, personalized and targeted, she will respond politely that she’s not on the lookout currently. However, some of what she receives is clearly just copy and pasted; clearly a form of spam. The more of this which occurs, the more
complaints LinkedIn will receive and the ultimate result is that functionality will be restricted. Another negative is that people will start to hide their profiles more, or even, stop using the site completely. This is of benefit to no one in the equation.

Of course we realise that there is a learning curve involved and mistakes will be made. We’ve all crossed someone on the wrong day and been met with a frosty response – that’s business. However once we all conduct ourselves in a professional manner and approach people in a balanced and honest way, there shouldn’t be any issues.

We would therefore urge all of our friends in recruitment to act in a hyper-targeted, ethical fashion when using the site. Please don’t proactively target people who have “Interested In – Career Opportunities” unticked – don’t spoil it for the rest of us!

-Brian (bhc at lifescience dot ie)

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