When Elizabeth Lim decided that she wanted to become a pharmacist, she was aware that there was some negative public perception about the industry.
"Even in the classrooms ... a lot of our professors are doing research and they want to treat patients and there's this perception that becoming a pharm rep is evil because it's more along the lines of business," Lim, a PharmD candidate in Atlanta, Georgia, told us.
However, Lim said that the negative image surrounding pharmacy representatives has dramatically improved in recent years. For example, the industry came to a general consensus that it's inappropriate for reps to give away promotional items as they're advertising new drugs.
"It removes the bias for doctors to pick a drug because they're receiving promotional pens from you," she said.
And the competition to find the next "superstar" drug is why there's more of an emphasis being placed on the research and development side right now.
Victor Kleinman , managing director and global head of pharmaceutical practice at DHR International, a recruiting firm responsible for placing executives, told us that the pharmaceutical industry is attracting young and top talent not merely because health care is booming, but also because there's this universal desire for workers to find "meaning" in their jobs.
"I mean, if you think about it, [health care workers] feel they are working with something greater than themselves," Kleinman said. "If someone goes to college to get a business degree, they may not feel the same connection as someone that's trying to create a new drug to save people."
"Forget what we all think and know about high unemployment. The unemployment rate among really good people in R&D is much lower than the national average."
And biotech companies know that in order to attract top talent, they need to portray an image that everyone is working on achieving something for the greater good. Aside from this, they also need to create a workplace environment that makes people feel needed and appreciated.
The biopharmaceutical company Celgene was ranked as the Best Employer of 2013 on Business Insider's list, which was based on exclusive data from PayScale. Ninety-one percent of the employees at the company reported a high job satisfaction rate and 91 percent reported high work schedule flexibility.
It's a known fact that a great workplace culture will result in happy employees, which inevitably means higher productivity and success for the company. In the past decade, success in developing effective drugs that help people battle cancer and inflammatory disorders has sent Celgene's revenue soaring, placing the company as a leader in its industry.
The competition between big pharmaceutical companies won't be settling down any time soon as a huge proportion of the population gets older and the number of Americans who take prescription drugs continues to increase, according to findings from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
"I think it's more pronounced now more than ever," Kleinman said. "You go back 10,15, 20 years ago and they're doing a really good job developing drugs like Lipitor and other household name drugs that make billions of dollars."
"Those drugs are much harder to come by these days and companies are so desperate to find the next big thing. To do that, you need the talent, and you have to be really, really competitive."
Lim, who is expected to graduate in May 2013, told us the i dea of being a part of discovering a new drug has influenced her to focus her career goals on the research and development side.
Although "there are hundreds of drugs out there, t here's still a need for new drugs that treat a disease because disease treatments aren't optimized or the current drug treatments have really bad side effects."
"Generally, you can do almost anything within the bigger companies to feel like you're contributing to the greater project," Lim told us. "I've talked to a lot to people who started in something totally unrelated to what they're doing now. The hours are pretty flexible and a lot of the big pharmaceutical companies are good for women and moms to work for."
"You can do almost anything you want. There's a big push for clinical pharmacists in the hospital setting or pharmacists working as part of a medical team."
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