Throughout the year, we would hold a number of activities to enhance communication among undergraduates in different years and eventually unite the School as a whole. In addition, ‘Pharminent’ would actively seek for opportunities to cooperate with external pharmacist bodies to promote the positive image of the profession in and outside the university.
Private Hospital Pharmacist
by Ms. Candy Tong
Well, it has been already two years since I graduated. I’m proud of myself for having chosen to make pharmacy my life career, and I’m really grateful for the teaching that helped transform a 20 year old girl into a professional and ethical career woman.
I chose to work in the Hong Kong Sanatorium and Hospital (HKSH) because I love the special challenges of being a pharmacist in a private hospital.
In the first place, the HKSH pharmacy stocks around 4,000 items, including many drug products I had never met before. Many newly launched drugs find their way to our pharmacy so we have to make ourselves familiar with them ready for all sorts of enquiries. Another challenge for me is that we have to dispense dressings, medical products like ileostomy bags, and nutritional products, but I find that I thrive on such new tests of my skills.
Next, there are only 14 pharmacists in HKSH, so all of us have a share in the management and development of our pharmacy. This is quite different from the practice in Hospital Authority facilities, and I truly believe that any pharmacist who likes to think and enjoy speaking his/her mind should consider joining a private hospital.
Finally, since there are no in-house doctors staying on the wards, the nurses regularly turn to us to help solve problems regarding pharmaceutical products—we receive around 80 phone calls from them every day.
I hope my picture of life in a private hospital pharmacy will intrigue and inspire any student who rates challenges above routine work. Why not come and join me when you graduate?
Senior Regulatory and Medical Affairs Manager – Pharmaceutical Industry
by Ms. Connie Kong
The first sentence in the briefing I received from the newsletter editor asked me to recount one of the most memorable events during my study in CU. I had one of those great “aha” flashbacks — Prof. Kenneth Lee showing how to steadily melt beeswax and transfer the cream into a plastic container, while all us girls were dying to rush out of the lab and try our own DIY aqueous cosmetic on our faces. I wonder if that was the sort of thing the editor had in mind?
I was in the fourth cohort of students from the School of Pharmacy. I am now a senior regulatory and medical affairs manager at GlaxoSmithKline, managing product registrations, medical affairs, pharmacovigilance activities, and quality assurance issues. I also work with commercial teams to ensure that the company’s promotional activities comply with internal and external regulations. I take pleasure in working in a multinational pharmaceutical company, because interacting with people from different cultures and functional backgrounds is always illuminating.
Our CU training gave us a strong competitive advantage in the pharmaceutical industry. Our strong academic background taught us the real beauty of medicine, and we also came to understand the health care environment and the relationships among the many different stakeholders. If you wish to join the pharmaceutical industry, cultivate an open and flexible mind. It’s truly amazing to find how swiftly a project can moves or how a business plan can evolve overnight, thanks to the combined efforts from R&D, manufacturing, legal, sales and marketing. Among others, the ability to work in a cross-functional team is of paramount importance.
Recent incidents relating to drug quality and safety in Hong Kong have shown that there is room for improvement in many areas, including product registration, quality assurance in the manufacturing and supply chain, management responsibilities and compliance control. Whatever reasons may have contributed to the failure to address such issues in the past, it is time for us pharmacists to become even more proactively involved in the development of Hong Kong’s pharmaceutical industry in Hong Kong.
I have found that many of the most successful general managers and other leaders in this industry are qualified pharmacists. You too can be a future captain of industry and so help to further the overall safety and well-being of the general public!
Chinese Medicine – an Industrial Perspective
by Dr. Kevin K.W. Chu
My interest in Chinese medicine dates back to 1997 when I embarked on my postgraduate research studies in the formulation of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) under the tutelage of Professor Albert Chow. Being trained on western drugs, I must confess that I was not familiar with TCM at the time and I was somewhat skeptical about the values and potential benefits of it. However, after spending 5 years on a research project aimed at developing Coriolus Versicolor (Yunzhi) extract into an evidence-based commercialized immunotherapeutic product for cancer patients, I was finally convinced of the unrealized values of TCM in disease treatment and was determined to dedicate myself to the humanity quest for longer, healthier and happier life through innovation and modernization of Chinese medicine. I was also fortunate to find a research and development position in a GMP TCM-manufacturing company right after my PhD graduation to pursue my career aspiration.
TCM development in Hong Kong and beyond
Chinese medicine is an integral part of the Chinese culture. In Hong Kong it has been used for prevention and treatment of diseases for quite some time and has made a significant contribution to the health of the public despite the fact that western orthodox medicine is still the main-stream therapy. Before 1997, the practice of TCM is largely unregulated, and its acceptance by the general public is low. After 1997, the Chinese Medicine Council of Hong Kong was set up to regulate the practice, use and trading of Chinese medicine. A system of accreditation and regulations including registration, examination and discipline of Chinese medicine practitioners was established for the existing practitioners. For Chinese medicine, the Council has implemented a licensing system of Chinese medicine traders and the registration system of proprietary Chinese medicine by phases. All proprietary Chinese medicinal products will need to be assessed for safety and quality before being allowed for registration. The dispensation, storage and labeling of Chinese herbal medicines will also be regulated.
Another milestone of TCM development in Hong Kong is the introduction of Chinese medicine into the public healthcare system on a gradual basis. This includes providing out-patient Chinese medicine services in the public sector, piloting the practice of Chinese medicine in selected public hospitals, supporting clinical research, and facilitating the development of standards and models of interface between western and Chinese medicines. In the near future, there will be a total of 18 Chinese medicine clinics under the auspices of Hospital Authority.
At present, Chinese medicine is becoming popular in Hong Kong. Approximately 22% of the medical consultations in Hong Kong are currently provided by Chinese medicine practitioners. Being more health conscious, the higher socioeconomic class in HK comprising mostly professionals has emerged as new TCM users in recent years. It can be envisaged that as more scientific documentation of the treatment effects becomes available, the various modalities deployed by Chinese medicine will no longer be viewed as being “alternative”, but rather as an integral part of modern medicine.
While the modernization of TCM appears to hold promise, the development of proprietary TCM products with proven quality and safety in Hong Kong is not without hurdles or problems. Without a sophisticated Chinese medicine regulatory system and stringent regulatory control, products of substandard safety, quality and efficacy would still dominate the TCM market. As the product’s quality and efficacy are not readily discernable by the consumers in the short run, most companies choose to invest money in the product’s media exposure rather than R&D and brand building. The lack of long-term investment among companies would seriously hamper the future development of Chinese medicine in Hong Kong.
Potential to be realized
Chinese medicine recognizes that health is more than just an absence of diseases and it has a unique way to maintain and enhance our capacity for well being and happiness. In view of the increasing demand for quality living in developed countries, TCM, with its unique usefulness in disease prevention, health maintenance and treatment of many chronic diseases, has a tremendous potential for globalization. Hong Kong has the right environment to assume the pivotal role of establishing links between East and West for the advancement of Chinese medicine. The way forward to make better use of Chinese medicine for the healthcare of the public worldwide will require the concerted efforts of professionals, health officials and industries to uphold the highest possible standard of professionalism as well as tight regulatory control of the quality of Chinese medicine (including practice) and other health-related therapies.[Dr. Chu is currently Technical Director of a local GMP TCM company whose manufacturing facilities are based in Nanning, Guangxi province.]