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Specialty spotlight – pharmaceutical medicine

Professor Alan Boyd, president of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Medicine, and Dr Urmi Shukla, ST4 in pharmaceutical medicine, discuss what makes their specialty so unique and how trainees can best pursue a career in it.

Introduction to pharmaceutical medicine

Pharmaceutical medicine is the medical scientific discipline concerned with the discovery, development, evaluation, registration, monitoring and medical aspects of marketing of medicines for the benefit of patients and the health of the community. At the core of the discipline is the clinical testing of medicines through several ‘phases’ of clinical trials, to better understand the efficacy of a medicine and its safety profile or benefit-risk balance. The safety and wellbeing of volunteers and patients participating in clinical trials is of utmost importance.

Pharmaceutical physicians work in the pharmaceutical industry, drug regulatory authorities, contract research organisations and academic centres. Developing new medicines is a global endeavour, and pharmaceutical physicians work across the world and in a variety of regional and international legal and regulatory frameworks, and ethical and professional codes of medical practice and governance.

Training and working in pharmaceutical medicine

Pharmaceutical Medicine Specialty Training (PMST) is a competency-based, 4-year programme and is predominantly based upon in-work experience. The knowledge base covers modules such as medicines regulation, clinical pharmacology and drug safety surveillance.

Pharmaceutical medicine resources

RCP resources

Historical highlights from the library, archive and museum collection

RCP fellows’ interests in pharmacology over several centuries are reflected in the contents of the RCP library: herbals, books of materia medica, and pharmacopoeias from across Europe are a significant strength of the collection: Pharmacological preparations - evidence from the RCP library and archives.

In the 20th century, RCP fellows were instrumental in establishing pharmacology as a modern specialty, in its teaching and in the regulation of pharmaceuticals, often combining clinical practice with committee work: RCP fellows and the history of pharmacology in the 20th century.