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Pharmaceutical companies discover, develop, make and sell medicines. It takes about 12 years for a new medicine to go through the tests that are required before it can be prescribed by doctors in the UK. During this time hundreds of different people are involved, and the medicine passes through a large number of tests. These are designed to check that the medicine will work for the disease it is intended; and that it will be safe for people to take.
It costs at least £550 million to develop a new medicine and takes 10-12 years. The benefits are to generate profit for the shareholders and to put money back into research. The benefit to the general population is to improve their quality of life when they are ill.
Employees earn anything from about £15,000 (for an industrial placement student) up to well over £100,000. A new graduate is likely to start on around £22,000 to £25,000. Someone coming in with a PhD would start on a higher salary.
On top of the salary, companies often have a bonus scheme and offer share options, health insurance, subsidised gym and other sports facilities, childcare and other benefits. Some jobs have a company car, mobile phone and computer equipment for use at home and all offer good pension schemes.
Most staff are contracted to do 37.5 hours per week but most people probably do more than that because they are committed to their jobs, enjoy them and go to work each day with an air of excitement because in science, a day's work is never predictable. There is a great flexibility over starting and finishing times and staff tend to align their working day to fit in with family commitments or traffic conditions.
The industry in the UK employs around 70,000 people in total, including 26,000 highly-trained scientists and doctors. In addition, the industry generates about another 250,000 jobs in related industries. The pharmaceutical industry carries out more research by far than any other industry sector in the UK, bringing major health benefits to patients in Britain and all over the world.