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Studying Pharmacy in Germany

Pharmacists are experts in drugs
An article by Florian Schumann

Studying Pharmacy in Germany
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That is what it’s about

Cancer is not always cancer. For example, if certain structures are present on cancer cells in a breast cancer patient, they can be treated with a special antibody that would be ineffective in other cancer cells. Exciting times are on the horizon for pharmacists, starting with such personalized medicines. "The mechanisms of action today are strongly in focus, whereby it is still not always clear how some older drugs work," says Bernd Clement, Professor of Pharmaceutical Chemistry at Kiel University and chair of the Pharmaceuticals Conference. The prospective pharmacists learn how drugs are made, how they work, how to make them and what risks users face. They also look at how the human organism works and what makes it sick. Possible employers are the pharmaceutical industry, drug testing centres and research. Most graduates, however, work in a pharmacy where they are "responsible for properly supplying the population with medicines," says Clement.

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This is how the course runs

A degree in pharmacy usually takes eight semesters, plus the practical year. In the undergraduate course, which concludes with the first state examination, the students deal with scientific fundamentals, above all chemistry. The curriculum also includes pharmaceutical analytics, pharmaceutical biology and pharmaceutical technology. For the first time, students learn the composition of ointments, creams and suppositories in the field of drug-based teaching and also produce them themselves. The main study focuses on the development and the effect of medicines. The students deepen their knowledge in the five subject areas of pharmaceutics: Pharmaceutical/medicinal chemistry, pharmaceutical biology, pharmaceutical technology, pharmacology/toxicology and clinical pharmaceutics. During the semester break there are a total of eight weeks of internships, of which at least four weeks are in a pharmacy. The practical year follows the second state exam, six months of which is in a pharmacy. After the third state examination, graduates can apply for authorization to be a pharmacist.

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Typical questions raised within the subject

  • How does a drug work?
  • When do antibiotics help?
  • How do you recognize medicinal plants such as St. John's Wort?
  • What are the problems when using antibodies as drugs?
  • How do you minimize side effects?
  • How to use asthma sprays correctly?
  • How to determine the content of a drug in a medicinal product?
  • Which medicines can be sensibly combined?

The subject suits you,...

As Bernd Clement says, this subject will suit you if you are interested in "science in all its range". Do not be disappointed if your studies are not about medical issues right from the start: In the first semesters, the foundations are laid first, even in the practical exercises. Only afterwards is the focus then on medication and patients. Good knowledge of the natural sciences makes it much easier to get started, even if there are lectures at the beginning, such as "Chemistry for pharmacists", which help to refresh your school knowledge. Laboratory work requires skill and endurance. You often have to repeat experiments before they work. Other than that, it should not bother you to have to deal with sick people: Pharmacists are health care professionals and it is their job to advise patients. Almost 70 percent of the students are women, even more so than in medicine and dentistry.

Is there a numerus clausus?

Pharmaceutics has restricted admission throughout Germany; the course entrance restrictions require grades at the highest end. It is planned that from 2020, new rules will apply.

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