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Pharmacology and Therapeutics

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Glossary of Pharmacology 

Therapeutics

Definition: 
Therapeutics is the use of treatment to cure or control a disorder.  The word Therapeutics is derived from the Greek Therapeia (healing) and Latin Therapia.  Therapeutics refers to a broad range of possible treatments, including drug treatment (pharmacotherapy), surgical treatments, the use of physical modalities (physiotherapy) and counselling (psychotherapy).
Relevance: 
Therapeutics is at the core of what health care providers do – relieve suffering and cure or control disease.  As stated by Hippocrates, Ασκείν περί τα νοσήματα δύο, ωφελείν ή μη βλάπτειν (As to diseases, make a habit of two things, to help, or at least, to do no harm).  Thus rationale therapeutics – ideally based on evidence – is a key element in health care and the use of rationale therapeutics is a skill that must be taught and then practiced.   Therapy is very common and drug therapy is a commonly used therapy.  One example is this graph showing the percentage of people who used a prescription medication with the last month (Canadian Health Information Measures Survey).

Examples of Pharmacotherapies: 

Disorder 

Drug 

Therapeutic Goal 

Mechanism of Action 

Acute Otitis Media 

Amoxicillin 

Resolution of ear infection and reduction of pain and inflammation 

Antibiotic 

Leukaemia 

Doxorubacin 

Killing cancer cells 

Chemotherapeutic – causes intercalation of tumour DNA and inhibits tumour cell replication 

Hypertension 

Losartan 

Enalapril 


Atenolol Metoprolol 

Nadolol 

Propranolol 

Lower blood pressure 

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARB) 

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors 

b-blocker 

Depression 

Citalopram 

Improvement of mood  

Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors 

Teaching tips:  

Considerations around therapeutics used to teach about: 

  • How to develop a therapeutic goal 

  • Evaluation of treatment options to achieve the therapeutic goal and benefits and risks of each treatment option 

  • Determination of which treatment option(s) to use in consultation with patients/families 

  • Developing a management plan including evaluation of benefits and risks of the therapeutic option(s) chosen and how to determine treatment success or failure  

  • Understand the principle of cost-effectiveness of therapy

Suggested articles on this topic:
  • de Vriers TPGM, Henning RH, Hogerzeil HV, Fresle DA.  Guide to good prescribing: A practical manual.  https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/59001/WHO_DAP_94.11.pdf 
    - This manual outlines the WHO 6-step approach to rationale prescribing 

  • Keijsers CJPW, Segers WS, de Wildt DJ, Brouwers JRBJ, Keijsesrs L, Jansen PAF.  Implementation of the WHO 6-step method in the medical curriculum to improve pharmacology knowledge and pharmacotherapy skills.  Br J Clin Pharmacol2015; 79: 896-906 
    - This study explores how the WHO 6-step method for rationale prescribing can be used to improve prescribing skills for undergraduate medical students 

Linked terms: Clinical Pharmacology, Prescribing, Pharmacotherapy   

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