Introduction to Pharmaceutical Industry

Pharmaceutical Company

Research, discover, develop, manufacture and market drugs

  • Pharmaceutical companies can be divided into two categories: small molecule drugs or biologic drugs
    • Biopharmaceutical companies –> biological drugs
    • Traditional Pharmaceutical companies –> small molecule drugs

Note: Hereafter traditional pharmaceutical company will be referred to as pharmaceutical company.

Small molecules are low molecular weight organic compounds that are either natural chemicals or synthetic chemicals produced with simple chemical ingredients. Small molecule drugs are usually taken orally. Example of a small molecule drugs: Tylenol (Acetaminophen), Advil (Ibuprofen)

Biologics are made from large, complex molecules (such as proteins) produced in living cells. Biologic drugs are often injected or delivered intravenously. Example of a biologic drugs: Humira, Rituxan, Avastin, Lantus

Pharmaceutical Industry Sectors

Brand Drugs: Brand drugs are the first discovered and marketed drugs for an indication. The pharma companies that develop and market the brand drugs are called brand companies. The brand drugs are usually patented by the brand company. Example: Tylenol is a brand drug made by Johnson & Johnson.

Generic Drugs: The generic drugs are the copied version of the brand drugs. Companies that copy the brand drugs once they come off the patent and market them for cheaper price are called generic companies. Acetaminophen is a generic drug made by Apotex.

Over The Counter (OTC): OTC drugs are non-prescription medications. Drugs that have been used safely for years with proven efficacy can be switched to OTC. Example: Tylenol (Acetaminophen) is an OTC medication.

Biotech Company

Biotech companies focus on early stage research and development of biologic drugs. Most of the biotech companies are small to medium sized and have one to few products on the market. Most of these small to medium sized biotech companies do not have the capability to manufacture and market. Therefore, they usually license out their invention to a biopharmaceutical company.

Contract Labs

Contract labs are external labs contracted out by pharmaceutical companies to do testing for them. Pharmaceutical companies will pay these contract labs to do certain testing for them because either it’s cheaper, faster or they do not have the resources to do these testing themselves.

Contract labs tend to hire new graduates and these labs are a great place to get the foot in the industry door for new graduates.