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Pharmacology and Therapeutics

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Glossary of Pharmacology 



Broadly defined as the study of the mechanism of action of the factors that impact their effects on biological systems. It encompasses both how the body handles a drug as well as what a drug does to the body.


Pharmacology handles all aspects related to drugs: their origins, physical and chemical properties and biological activity. This discipline draws upon chemistry, biochemistry, physiology, molecular & cell biology and pharmaceutical sciences to explain the principles of drug action. From crude plant extracts to sophisticated monoclonal antibodies, pharmacology provides the basis for drug design and development. Core principles of pharmacology are also fundamental to critically evaluate drug-related data and information.  

Pharmacology underpins therapeutics and therapeutic reasoning; hence, its paramount relevance for medicine and other health care professions.  

Pharmacology can be divided into numerous sub-disciplines such as cardiovascular, pulmonary, renal, endocrine, reproductivegastrointestinal pharmacology, neuropharmacologypsychopharmacology and other organ-specific pharmacology and pharmacogenetics. Of note, clinical pharmacology specializes in the safe and effective use of medicine in humans, while toxicology, another discipline related to pharmacology, focuses on the harmful effects of chemicals, including drugs in living organisms.

Teaching tips:  

Teaching pharmacology can take so many forms, from didactic lectures & interactive sessions to hands-on teaching in the laboratory. Regardless of the format, demonstrating the application of pharmacology in the treatment of symptoms and diseases helps to motivate learning and engage learners. In this regard, active learning approaches are great to teach pharmacology. More specifically, the use of case-based learning and simulation help to foster deep learning by promoting the development of decision-making and critical thinking skills and application of basic concepts into real life scenarios

    Linked terms: pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamicsdrug


    Marks G. S. (1994). The history of pharmacology in Canada. Trends in pharmacological sciences15(7), 205–210. 

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