Prescription For Detour: My Stint As a Pharmaceutical Editor

1094381592_66648b3d28_zIt is fun to walk off of the beaten path, mostly because it’s been beaten to death and you’d rather suck on a piece of dry toast than taste another day on Boredwalk (pun intended). My recent dip into my Editor persona certainly qualified as a slice of cinnamon swirl toast with lots of butter slathered on top.

By chance, the opportunity to do a little editorial work for a large pharmaceutical company fell into my lap. I am with several creative agencies, and one of them delivered the chance to sit and read pharma copy all day and get paid for it. So, that is what I’ve done this last year, and there are definite differences with style and protocols when it comes to working with pharma copy, such as:

  • AMA style – Who knew that a bunch of medical folk could get so stylish about how words and things that accompany words work? I’m an AP style gal, so AMA was a challenge (even though I used it previously as a chiropractic magazine editor).
  • Rules of Engagement – Whereas medical marketing requires that one know what can be said, and what cannot, pharmaceutical copy is all that much more stringent. You can promise the world, but you better have the data to back it. There is an extensive amount of fact checking with this line of work, as well as regulatory hoop hopping.
  • Eye strain – Yes, I admit that my eyeballs fell out with the pondering of 9 point type on a daily basis. Quite a bit of pharma copy is made up of disclaimers, and these can run small. Even with a magnifying glass and good lighting, I would go home at the end of the day with packing tape holding my eyes in their sockets.

There were some editors brought in to help the department that sank like lead to the bottom of the word ocean. Others thrived in the chaos that is pharma, including yours truly. For a brief period, I batted around the idea of writing for the company, but felt that pharmaceutical copywriting wasn’t quite my niche (at least for now). Besides, I loved the editorial department and its funky bunch of candy addicts with red pens. A little sugar, a little ink, and a lot of dedication goes into this world, and I wouldn’t want it any other way.


Image: Mike Licht, Flikr Creative Commons


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