Meet Lisa Cameron this International Women’s Day. Lisa ensures all Teva products made and sold in Canada meet the most rigorous quality standards. It’s a big responsibility – even one tiny imperfection could lead to production lines being shut down and vital medicines being held up or destroyed.
I’m responsible for around 500 products – so no pressure! It’s my job to make sure that patients receive safe, quality medicines when they need them.
I lead a big team and we stay very busy. We’re involved in everything from examining the chemical make-up of the drug to check for things like impurities in the pharmaceutical ingredients, to checking that the manufacturing process was carried out correctly. At the same time, a drug that starts out good needs to stay good until it expires. Every product that goes on the market needs to be tested and we have annual stability testing to check for any abnormalities over its shelf life, which is usually around 36 months.
I’m always thinking about patients. Ultimately, making sure that they get a safe and quality medicine is why we’re here. I’m very aware that it could be my mother, my sister, or any member of my family that eventually takes the medication.
Manufacturing medicine is a long and complicated process. Potentially, quality issues can arise in any point of the production process so we want to make sure our drugs always meet stringent standards. We test at least 250 products and a couple of hundred raw materials each month. There are countless permutations in the process, and it is really important to look for anything that is out of place.
Small issues can lead to big problems. We work hard to make sure we prevent an issue from occurring wherever we can. It’s fairly rare that something does occur but if it does then we might have to halt production. It’s a big deal – it can mean the drugs people need simply will not be available until we analyze both the raw materials and the production process. We’ll need to look at everything.
I love finding creative ways of solving problems. This has been a big part of my career and it’s what I find most interesting about working in quality. Pharma is obviously a highly regulated and disciplined industry but fortunately getting creative and expansive thinking is actively encouraged.
We work differently now – everything is much faster. Today, we’re much closer to our colleagues in Operations. We have people in the thick of it on the factory floor and attending meetings so that when problems come up we can address them quickly. In the past, we may not have noticed an issue until the finished product was manufactured. Now, we have the Operators and Quality team members working together, so they can report something if it’s not right as soon as they see it. Instead of having equipment tied up for a month, we can do forensic tests and get back into production in a matter of days.
I don’t understand why more women aren’t interested in science. Science is my passion and I have a PhD in chemistry. I started my career as an analytical research and development chemist before moving into several different roles in Quality. I find this work incredibly stimulating, challenging and rewarding.
I’ve never encountered any barriers because of my gender. I look around the organization in Canada and I see a lot of female colleagues. Canada, generally, is a very inclusive society and Toronto is an international city of many cultures. For Teva in Canada, it’s all about putting the right person in the job, whoever that is.
There are sometimes days of high pressure and high tension. These are often during the routine inspections carried out by regulators from a range of different countries. Visits from the regulator are really important – they give us the chance to demonstrate everything we do to maintain quality standards, but they also give us an opportunity to learn and improve too. Inspections can be tough and a lot of work, but it’s really rewarding to see everyone pull together and show their pride in what we do.
Before I go away, the first thing I do is pack my boots. The job is so much about small details and being meticulous that it is good to get into the great outdoors to relax. I have a cottage up north and I love to go hiking to clear the mind.