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 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.

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