Pfizer is raising the bar in terms of qualifications within its education department, portending a possible staff shakeup at the New York drug firm.
The company is making reviewers in its Medical Education Grants department re-interview for their jobs, and candidates are being required to meet a higher standard that includes years of experience and an advanced degree, according to several people familiar with the company’s plans.
Responding to a question about the interviews, a Pfizer spokesman said in an email statement that the company is "working to increase efficiency and improve performance across its global operations" and that a "restructuring of roles and responsibilities in many areas of the company" is ongoing as it becomes a "leaner, more agile and more customer-focused organization."
The re-evaluation is the latest stage in an overhaul of MEG, begun in 2005, in which it formed an online point of contact for all grant requestors and moved the staff responsible for authorizing independent educational grants into the medical group. The company is still in the midst of aligning its CME with quality and awarding some of the 12,000 grant requests it receives per year for performance-improvement oriented education, as well as for traditional update-oriented activities.
“As we’ve changed what we’ve done and our processes over the last two years…we continue to think about how do we support, what do we support,” said Cathryn Clary, MD, MBA, SVP of Pfizer US Medical, at a recent conference.
The bid to raise qualifications also comes as the external CME atmosphere becomes increasingly demanding for companies. Since the 2003 Office of the Inspector General guidance, marketing has had less influence on education. The percentage of funding from commercial sources has declined, as more physicians begin to pay their own way a bit more and as academic centers and societies increase their contribution. April’s Senate Finance Committee report praised the pharmaceutical sector for taking such steps as separating marketing from education but warned that risks for fraud and abuse remain in the $2.25-billion CME enterprise.
Raising staff requirements is one way to ensure compliance with government and internal policies and procedures. It may also help ensure that individuals assessing grant requests have educational expertise.
According to the criteria, spelled out in an online job listing, candidates for the therapeutic area education director must have five-to-seven years’ experience in CME, plus an advanced degree. Those who don’t have the degree can commit to get at least a master’s in education within three years. These criteria, once posted on Pfizer’s career site, have been taken down but are still posted on an external site called MedHunters.com.
"It is important to
note that jobs posted on Pfizer's website are filled based on the
individual merits of those applying, and not solely on pre-defined
criteria described online," the Pfizer spokesman, Huw Gilbert, added.
According to one source, most of the current staff do not currently measure up to the new standard. That could mean layoffs, followed by a hiring binge as new reviewers are added.