September 25, 2023

Pharmacists in Clinical Research: Debunking the Misconceptions and Shaping The Future

Today is World Pharmacists Day!

To honor this event, we are excited to feature two exceptional Clinical Research Associates at PiVOT, talented professionals and proud Pharmacists from the University of Santo Tomas,  Jan Jyenzie Rodolfo, PharmD., RPH, and Carol Kim Toyoken, RPH.,  to shed light on the most common myths in Pharmacy and discuss the future of Pharmacists in Clinical Research. Through their insights, we aim to educate and spread awareness about the truth behind these misconceptions.

What are the biggest misconceptions in Pharmacy here in the Philippines?

Misconception 1:
Pharmacy is all about sales.

Truth: Pharmacists are primarily responsible for ensuring the well-being of patients. They verify prescriptions, check for drug interactions, and provide patient counseling on safe, effective, and rational medication use.

Misconception 2:
Pharmacists have limited career options.

Truth: Pharmacists have a variety of career prospects outside of retail pharmacy. They can work in hospitals, clinics, pharmaceutical companies, regulatory agencies, and clinical research.

Misconception 3:
Pharmacists have a subject to read prescriptions.

Truth: We are often asked if there is a subject in our undergraduate years mainly focused on reading illegible prescriptions, and unfortunately, there is none. Pharmacists are trained to recognize different types of medications and their dosage forms. If a prescription is difficult to read, they can ask the patient for clarification or contact the prescribing healthcare provider. From there, we can pinpoint the drugs and their respective dosages and identify the prescribed medication.

Misconception 4:
Pharmacists are just glorified salespeople.

Truth: Pharmacists are patient partners who work with their patients to ensure they take the right medications safely and effectively. They also provide education and support to help patients manage their chronic conditions and improve their overall health.

Pharmacists in the Philippines are highly skilled and knowledgeable professionals who play an important role in the healthcare system. They are essential to ensuring the safety and efficacy of medication use and providing patients with the support they need to manage their health.

What are the main challenges and rewards of working as a pharmacist in the clinical research industry?

YENZIE: One of the main challenges of working as a pharmacist in the clinical research industry is acquiring new skills, such as data management and monitoring. Clinical research pharmacists must also be comfortable traveling, especially to provincial sites. However, the rewards of working in this field are significant, including competitive compensation, the opportunity to collaborate with a diverse team of professionals, and the satisfaction of knowing that your work is helping to advance medicine.

CAROL: The main challenge of being a pharmacist in clinical research is adjusting to its unique demands. Unlike traditional pharmacy practice, which focuses on dispensing medications and interacting with patients, clinical research pharmacists are more involved in paperwork and overall monitoring of clinical trials. This can be a challenge for pharmacists who are used to working directly with patients.

However, there are also many rewards to working as a clinical research pharmacist. One of the biggest rewards is knowing that your work is helping to develop new and innovative treatments that can potentially improve patients’ lives. Clinical research pharmacists also have the opportunity to collaborate with a diverse team of professionals, including doctors, researchers, and regulatory experts. This can be a very rewarding and intellectually stimulating environment.

Can you share a story about a time when you could use your pharmacy knowledge to help a patient or improve a clinical trial?

YENZIE: My knowledge of medications and medical terminologies has dramatically helped me work as a CRA in my trials.

I was reviewing patient charts when I noticed that medication was written illegibly on a medication form, so an incorrect medication name had been encoded in the Electronic Data Capture System. If it were checked by someone not well-versed in medications, this would have been ignored. Still, I could identify the error and asked the site staff to correct it to ensure the accuracy of the data.

I am also often asked by my co-CRAs to define medical abbreviations on patient charts. This is important because it ensures that everyone involved in the clinical trial uses the same terminology and correctly understands the patient’s medical history.

CAROL: During one of my visits to a clinical trial site, the site staff asked me about the concomitant medication of the study drug and another drug of the same purpose. I advised them that the two drugs could still be taken together if clinically needed but that the patient must be monitored closely for adverse effects.

I am glad I could use my pharmacy knowledge to help the site staff and ensure that the patient received safe and effective care.

What advice would you give to other pharmacists interested in a clinical research career?

YENZIE: Hone your written and oral communication skills. Communication is essential in clinical research, as you must communicate effectively with various stakeholders, including doctors, researchers, regulatory experts, and other pharmacists. You will also need to be able to write clear and concise reports.

CAROL: Clinical research is a growing field that allows pharmacists to make a real difference in patients’ lives. While it may not be as gratifying as other fields of pharmacy, such as community or hospital pharmacy, it is a field where the essence of pharmacy is very much alive.

If you are interested in a career in clinical research, I advise you to do the following:

Research the field and learn more about the culture.
What are the different types of clinical research jobs? What are the pros and cons of working in clinical research?

Upskill on communication (oral, written, and presentation).
Communication is essential in clinical research, as you will need to be able to communicate effectively with various stakeholders, including doctors, researchers, regulatory experts, and other pharmacists.

Learn about Good Clinical Practice (GCP). GCP is a set of international standards for designing, conducting, performing, monitoring, auditing, recording, reporting, and archiving clinical trials. Clinical research pharmacists must understand GCP well (treat it as your bible) to ensure their work is conducted ethically and scientifically.

How do you see the role of pharmacists changing in clinical research in the next 5-10 years?

YENZIE: Pharmacists are increasingly important in clinical research as healthcare evolves. In the future, I hope to see even more pharmacists involved in designing clinical trials and developing research protocols. Clinical research aims to discover and create new medications and treatments to benefit patients while preserving their safety and rights. This aligns with our primary role as pharmacists, which is to safeguard the health of our patients through the safe, effective, and rational use of medications.

CAROL: I see pharmacists becoming more involved and immersed in clinical research as ambassadors for the importance of clinical trials. Remember, no drug is made without undergoing clinical trials. It is the future of our profession.



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