Drugs may be the answer


Got a headache? Reach into the medicine cabinet and take something for it. Picked up a nasty infection? See the doctor and have him write a prescription for you. It couldn’t be simpler.

But there’s a lot more to popping a pill than an open mouth and a glass of water. As well as the basic research and clinical trials, there’s also a sizable pharmaceuticals industry here that can’t hire anyone trained in drug manufacturing technology fast enough.

As Alexander MacGregor says, the Toronto Institute of Pharmaceutical Technology is the only school of its kind and can’t keep up with the demand for its graduates.

MacGregor, dean of faculty and president of the institute, says his school usually accepts about 100-120 students a year, but that number has climbed to about 200 recently with four intakes of 50 students in January, March, June and September.

52 weeks with no breaks

“Very often we get companies coming in and asking for a couple of hundred people that we don’t have graduating. So it’s a very high volume employment rate program,” MacGregor says. The course runs for 52 weeks with no breaks and trains students in all aspects of drug manufacturing technology. The institute’s graduates actually make the pills, capsules, tablets, ointments and so on for pharmaceutical companies and shouldn’t be confused with pharmacy technicians, MacGregor points out.

Frank Martinuzzi, general manager of the institute, says his students’ practical training — which comprises about 60% of the course — is conducted in a simulated manufacturing environment that’s much like the real plants they will work in when they graduate. It allows students to come to grips with the regulations on drug compliance and to work out and correct their mistakes. Too many mistakes means students won’t graduate, of course, although Martinuzzi says there is a scheme in place to permit the writing of remedial exams.

MacGregor says the majority of his students at the private career college were educated outside Canada. That means there are lots of them at the institute who have bachelor of science degrees, he continues, and “they are perfect candidates for the program.” It also attracts college students and still others whose training is being funded by Human Resources Development Canada. The bare minimum for admission to the program is high school graduation with credits in math and science. Students range in age from 20 to 60 and classes are 60% male.

Tuition is a steep $12,000, but MacGregor says to help keep costs down the institute produces its own text books, and material for the program comes from the school’s own faculty who are all work there full time. Thirty seven per cent of them have doctorates, says MacGregor, who earned his own PhD in clinical pharmacology at the University of London, and another 18% have master’s degrees.

MacGregor won’t put a figure on what graduates of the institute will earn in their first jobs, but says their employment rate is above 90% and sometimes they are hired before they write their final exams. Graduates have found work at Apotex, Novapharm and GlaxoSmithKline, among others.

One student who will be looking for employment following graduation this April is Tracy Lidster. Lidster, 34, who was laid off from a door making plant, says he saw an ad for the institute on TV. The program dovetails with his interest in chemicals and has given him in-demand training, he says. Lidster, who particularly enjoyed the practical aspect of the program, says it taught him what he was doing and why.

Quick facts

The pharmaceuticals manufacturing program at the Toronto Institute of Pharmaceutical Technology lasts 52 weeks.

Tuition for the course is $12,000 but some applicants may be eligible for HRDC funding.

The minimum requirement for admission is a high school diploma with credits in math and science.

Most of the students in the program were educated abroad.
There are four intakes a year: in January, March, June and September.

For more information visit the website at www.tipt.com.