Pharmacists and Clinical Trials

By Professor Jayne Lawrence, Chief Scientist, Royal Pharmaceutical Society and Dr Rachel Joynes, Head of Research and Evaluation  

Today is International Clinical Trials Day (ICTD). Now in its 11th year, ICTD is celebrated around the world to commemorate the day James Lind started his famous clinical trial on scurvy. The day is an opportunity for organisations and clinical research professionals to discuss the benefits that involvement and engagement in research can bring. But what role do pharmacists play in clinical trials? And what opportunities are there to engage? 

Supporting robust, well designed and conducted research is a vital part of the RPS scientific strategy, ‘New medicines, better medicines, better use of medicines’, which highlights challenges and opportunities faced when creating new medicines, improving existing medicines or ensuring the better, safer use of medicines. Pharmacists lead research to improve evidenced based practice in roles across industry, academia and clinical practice but pharmacy professionals also actively support research across the UK. By engaging with and enabling successful and safe delivery of research, pharmacy is at the forefront of developing and supporting the methodology behind clinical trials and ensuring safe pharmaceutical care.

Pharmacy has a vital role to play in relation to clinical research and clinical trials in safeguarding participants by ensuring the medicines under investigation are appropriate for use and are procured, handled, stored and used safely and correctly. Recent RPS blogs have highlighted the variety of roles pharmacist play in the industrial clinical research settings like clinical trials, regulatory affairs, sales and marketing, manufacturing and quality assurance, but pharmacy professionals also work on and engage with clinical research and clinical trials in non-commercial settings.

Careers in clinical trials

Pharmacists can engage in clinical research and clinical trials in a number of ways. As an example, David McRae, a hospital based clinical trials pharmacist from Cwm Taf University Health is ‘involved before, during and after a study is active, undertaking a wide variety of activities: risk assessments for trials, training staff who will be involved in those trials, writing trial-specific procedures, and ensuring trial medicines are available, suitably stored and packaged’. David also highlights that ‘the involvement of our pharmacy team ensures that the aspects of the trials which involve medicines are conducted safely and in accordance with the legislation governing trials.’

Although there are relativity few full time clinical trials pharmacist posts throughout the UK that number is growing with pharmacists working across NHS Trusts, in dedicated Clinical Trials Units and industry. The RPS is also actively supporting pharmacists working in these roles both via the activities of our Pharmaceutical Science Expert Advisory Panel and our partnership with the National Pharmacy Clinical Trials Advisory Group (NPCTAG). The NPCTAG aims to engage and support all pharmacy staff who contribute to clinical trials of medicines and offers a forum for expert led advice, support and discussion.

How to engage in clinical trials

Getting involved in research doesn’t just mean working as a clinical trials pharmacist or running a clinical trial. The RPS Research Ready Community Pharmacy programme is an example of how pharmacies can in engage in research activities and can lead to professional development opportunities for the staff involved. A recent review of the Research Ready programme indicated pharmacy leads saw research as a way of ensuring better care and of giving patients the chance to be involved in the design and conduct of their care. Engaging in research goes much further than clinical trials and can include other research such as observational or health promotion studies. Pharmacies can be involved in raising awareness of research, recruiting patients, delivering interventions and managing and dispensing clinical trial medicines.

Find out more

Interested in joining the National Pharmacy Clinical Trial Advisory Group Forum‘? Or becoming Research Ready?

To see more about our commitments to science and research visit here or for pharmacist’s roles in clinical trials see more here. 

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