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What is Pharmaceutical Science?

Published: April 14th, 2015

Category: articles

Pharmaceutical science refers to a category of scientific fields, including drug discovery and design, drug delivery, drug action, clinical sciences, drug analysis, pharmacoeconomics, and regulatory affairs. Pharmaceutical chemistry is also a pharmaceutical science.

According to the American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists, there are a number of disciplines that make up pharmaceutical science. This includes:

  • Analysis and pharmaceutical quality, including quality assurance
  • Biotechnology in research and development
  • Clinical pharmacology and translational research
  • Drug discovery and development
  • Formulation design and development
  • Manufacturing science and engineering including medical devices
  • Pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, and drug metabolism
  • Pharmacy and biopharmaceutics
  • Regulatory science, ensuring quality and safety

The process of developing a drug can be long and extremely time- and labor-intensive. There are many different parts to drug development, as outlined above. The three main stages are discovery, development, and manufacturing. Each of these falls under the umbrella of pharmaceutical science.

Drug discovery involves identifying compounds, especially those that treat diseases. A strong background in chemistry is important in drug discovery. Pharmaceutical scientists may examine thousands of molecular compounds to find one that is effective and is not harmful to people who would be ingesting it. There are many parts to this process, including considering how proteins alter these compounds.

Usually, pharmaceutical scientists focus on one aspect of the drug development process in their work. This could be designing therapies using natural or synthetic ingredients, researching new ways to use existing drugs to treat other diseases, or defining the most effective formulation of certain compounds. Drug development is an involved process, and it is only part of the total process of creating a new drug and bringing it to market.

Pharmaceutical science covers all aspects of drug development. Pharmaceutical scientists help discover and develop new drug therapies that save lives and improve quality of life. There are opportunities to make a difference in a lab setting, or working for government agencies such as the National Institutes of Health or Food and Drug Administration.

What About Pharmacists?

Pharmaceutical science differs from pharmacy in the sense of pharmacists because pharmacists evaluate medication use, dispense medication, and work with patients. On the other hand, pharmaceutical scientists are more behind the scenes than pharmacists, and their work is mainly in research to discover, develop, and test new drugs. Pharmaceutical scientists spend most of their time in a laboratory working on different chemical compounds and looking at how these interact with the human body.

Pharmaceutical chemistry is an integral part of being a pharmaceutical scientist. A master’s degree in pharmaceutical chemistry provides the advanced knowledge necessary for a successful career in pharmaceutical science. The University of Florida’s online master’s degree in pharmaceutical chemistry offers the opportunity to earn an online degree in as little as 2 years, with instruction from top professors, interactive discussion, and instructive modules. In the pharmaceutical sciences, an advanced degree means higher pay and more career opportunities. The University of Florida also allows students to take one or two courses as a non-degree student or pursue a graduate certificate in pharmaceutical chemistry and transfer the credits later toward a master’s degree.