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Canadian Society of

Pharmacology and Therapeutics

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Glossary of Pharmacology 


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).
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: 



Therapeutic Goal 

Mechanism of Action 

Acute Otitis Media 


Resolution of ear infection and reduction of pain and inflammation 




Killing cancer cells 

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




Atenolol Metoprolol 



Lower blood pressure 

Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARB) 

Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors 




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. 
    - 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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