As a UK trained physician who has worked in US-based pharma for the past 10 years, I was very pleased to see the FPM Global Forum (GF) as one of the many initiatives Marcia Philbin, our CEO, has started over 2022. The first meeting of the GF, chaired by Dr Viraj Rajadhyaksha, was enlightening to me and others.
First, as to the large numbers of physicians who are working outside the UK with connections to FPM – several hundred spread around over 30 countries! Second by the dearth (with a few exceptions) of training organisations and opportunities for pharmaceutical physicians available in other countries.
“It is apparent that there is no equivalent organisation to FPM, one that trains and educates pharmaceutical physicians, that currently exists in the US.”
Some of the FPM Global Forum aims that were defined in that inaugural meeting included:
- increasing international recognition of pharmaceutical medicine as a medical speciality;
- creating networks of pharmaceutical physicians across the globe;
- developing training and assessment opportunities, and
- growing FPM
A few months later, as a result of the Biotechnology International Convention (BIO) being held in San Diego during June 2022, there was opportunity for our President, Dr Flic Gabbay, to introduce the FPM GF and discuss its aims with a US-based audience. As I live and work in San Diego, I was able to help facilitate this meeting.
There were nine attendees in total, from diverse backgrounds including a mix of FPM Fellows (FFPM), Members (MFPM), and Affiliates, as well as two US trained physicians, with all of us working in US pharma. Flic led discussions under two broad topics, first, exploring potential FPM offerings towards overseas-based pharmaceutical physicians, and second, focusing on FPM’s relationship with similar US organisations.
With regards to the first of these topics, it is apparent that there is no equivalent organisation to FPM, one that trains and educates pharmaceutical physicians, that currently exists in the US. The nearest group to FPM is the Academy of Physicians in Clinical Research (APCR) which is more focused towards investigators and does not run formal training programs.
Although there are piecemeal educational courses run by organisations such as the Drug Information Association (DIA) or Medical Affairs Professional Society (MAPS), there appears to be no formal educational courses that cover drug development as a whole and are directed towards physicians.
There was general agreement in the meeting around an unmet need for more formal training, as there are currently large hiring needs across the US, with a lack of experienced pharmaceutical physicians and scientists who can fill these vacancies. In fact, physicians tend to ‘sink or swim’ in the US as there is no formal educational supervision either.
There was strong agreement that DPM-type courses that would train physicians (and non-physicians) entering industry would be valuable. These could take the form of expanding existing FPM web-based and online offerings, or they could also assume the form of in-person company ‘bootcamp’ training – essentially a ‘DPM essentials’ course in a week. A pilot of this type of course had, in fact, just been run by FPM to onboard physicians and scientists at a company in Boston, and highly favourable reviews fed back.
The discussions moved on to the aligned need of making mentorship, networking and continuing professional development support easier for UK-trained FPM members based in the US, as well as for US trained pharmaceutical physicians. The possibility of a GF local chapter existing in the US (as well as in other countries) was suggested. There was recognition that operationalisation of these initiatives would need to be funded, and big pharma companies and organisations such as PhRMA (the US equivalent of ABPI) were suggested as potential sources of financial support.
Some of the short-term actions agreed upon to address this first topic included 1) Increasing FPM advertising of current online educational and examination offerings more to the US and other countries, and 2) to approach big pharma and PhRMA via existing FPM members to discuss opportunities and potential funding.
The second topic, discussing FPM’s potential relationships with other US organisations, led to various approaches being suggested. The APCR would be an obvious organization to make contact with, as a parallel organisation to FPM. Having a presence at some of the larger speciality congresses held in the US was considered, such as running a booth or a drug development workshop. Partnering with a US university was also voiced, but regarded as challenging. Finally, approaching US medical standard-setting bodies, such as the American College of Physicians, to understand subspecialty medical training was discussed from the perspective of introducing board certification and training for US pharmaceutical physicians.
Overall, the discussions helped crystallise the unmet educational needs in US pharmaceutical medicine that FPM can help address, along with supporting existing FPM members in the US. Therefore, the meeting provided sound foundations for the FPM Global Forum’s US strategy, and it remains to be seen how the initiatives discussed for the US fit, or not, with the needs of other countries.