Wednesday 1 July 2020


By Dr. Suneet Sood, Monash University & Kamal Shahani, Cliniminds

In the series of short write ups on a medical writing career, we would cover various aspects of medical & scientific writing. This first article covers the introduction and the scope of medical writing.

 Medical writing is, in its broadest sense, writing for the healthcare and life sciences industry. The term “writing” included only the print medium, but now also includes any writing work that is carried out for television (e.g. advertisements), radio (e.g. speeches), and internet. Healthcare related typically refers to medicine, but medical writers also involve themselves in writing for agriculture and veterinary related content.

In this short write up, we would cover the scope and types of medical writing.

 The Scope of Medical Writing

 For persons who wish to become medical writers, the scope is immense. 

Medical writing is today a billion-dollar industry.

The writer can involve themselves in one of two types of writing:

1.      Regulatory Writing        

2.      Publication Writing

Medical writing is conventionally classified into these two types, because the laws governing regulatory writing are considerably more stringent than those governing publication writing. Consequently, someone who is involved in regulatory writing is more likely to require a formal training course than one who will confine themselves to publication writing.

Having said that, everyone needs training!

Regulatory writing is that which is typically carried out by the contract research organizations for the pharmaceutical industry or by the pharmaceutical companies for regulatory compliances. They typically create large texts for firms conducting drug trials. Today the ethical constraints for all trials are so tight that there is a large body of rules that guides this form of writing. The rules ensure that the documents adhere to the International Conference of Harmonization’s Good Clinical Practice guidelines. Medical writers at Pharmaceutical companies write several regulatory documents for submissions to various global regulatory agencies.

Thus, a medical writer involved in regulatory writing will prepare clinical trial reports, write out the investigator brochures, generate new drug applications, compile annual reports, write out clinical study reports, and so on.

In contrast, the medical writer who focuses on publication writing will typically write for magazines, journals, even books. Publication writing includes pharmaceutical marketing and advertising, writing magazine articles, and so on, for the public (see box). Publication writing includes newsletters, speeches, posters, abstracts and other journal content, educational materials, compilation of drug monographs, internet content, and ghostwriting, as well as editing and other activities of publishing houses.

Publication writing

Pharmaceutical marketing and advertising

Magazine articles

Professional Newsletters

Physician speeches Posters

Conference Coverage

Journal abstracts and articles Medical education materials Patient educational materials Internet content

Editing, proofing, publishing Ghostwriting

The debate is not whether there is enough work for medical writers. The debate is, “is there a limit?” Medical writers can get jobs in pharmaceutical companies, contract research organizations, agencies that specialize in communications work, content providers, or institutions that cater for education. Freelance writers have a high demand if they are good. The most skilled writers will create content. Medical writers will also be editors and proofreaders, and may have a role in marketing for medical products. However, all writers should aim to become content creators. Medical writing is a sort of business. Skill, marketing, and durability in the profession make a great difference. Still, the rewards are good overall. In United States of America medical writers earn between US$60,000 and 100,000 or more annually. In India medical writers earn between Rs.400,000 and 20,00,000 or more annually depending upon your level and experience. A lot depends on the market a writer targets. Most of the better earners will have taken a writing course. Very few top earners will be self-taught. As professionals, most should be members of an established medical writing institution/ association.

The scope for publication writing is also immense. One can produce advertising articles, internet content, magazine articles, marketing materials, newsletters, training manuals, and more.

Publication writing itself is directed at two main audiences: the public (popular) and the scientific (professional). Writing for the public includes content for popular newspapers and magazines, educational materials, advertising products such as flyers, and others. Scientific writing includes content for newsletters, reviews for journals that cater to practitioners, and internet content for professionals. Scientific writing may even include writing for specialty medical journals, and medical writers are lobbying hard to make it acceptable for investigators to enlist their services to produce medical papers.

For those who are interested in taking medical writing more seriously, even as a profession, the question we need to address is: are there jobs for medical writers? The answer is, “Of course there are jobs.” Writing for The pharmaceutical and clinical research industry itself is a multibillion dollar business. A simple Google search showed that the industry turnover has multiplied since the nineties. The same holds true for publication writing.

Formal training in medical and scientific writing is important for the professionals who would like to take a plunge in medical writing career or medical doctors who would like to conduct and publish their research. A formal training course would be helpful.

About Cliniminds : Cliniminds offers wide range of health sciences programs since 2004. Cliniminds also offers specialized program in Medical & Scientific WritingNext batch for Live eLearning is commencing from Sunday, 2 August 2020. For more information, please contact or +91 98100 68241.