Pharmacology 3A06: Introduction to Pharmacology


This is a full year course that will be run entirely in a problem-based format.

The objectives of this course are twofold: Process objectives (HOW to learn) and Content objectives (WHAT to learn)

Process objectives: In this format of learning, the cases, problems or scenarios act as starting points for exploration. You would acquire the skills necessary to use such problems to further your knowledge of the discipline. Thus given a problem in pharmacology, you would learn to generate issues/organise relevant issues into learning tasks/seek appropriate information from a variety of sources (texts, journals, individuals), analyse critically the information obtained, synthesise the information into a coherent framework, share the information obtained, facilitate the learning of others in the group, assess your performance as well as those of the others.

Content Objectives: This is an Introductory course designed to give you a good working knowledge of fundamental pharmacological principles. The course is divided into 2 terms. The first term will emphasise the basic concepts required to understand drug action. The second term provides an opportunity to apply the knowledge you have acquired to specific situations.

Pharmacologists are interested in providing answers to two central questions (a) WHAT does the DRUG do to the BODY? - PHARMACODYNAMICS, and (b) WHAT does the BODY do to the DRUG? - PHARMACOKINETICS.

To answer the first question, it is necessary to acquire information about:

  • Dose- and concentration-response relations
  • Graded and quantal responses
  • Potency & efficacy
  • Therapeutic and toxic effects of drugs
  • Drug receptors: their classification and experimental definition
  • Agonists (the dimensions of agonism) & antagonists
  • Receptor-response coupling
  • Non-receptor mediated effects of drugs

To understand what the BODY does to the DRUG, you would need to acquire information about :

  • Absorption, distribution, biotransformation, excretion of drugs
  • Orders of reaction (first, zero orders)
  • Routes of administration
  • Different formulations
  • Bioequivalence
  • Definition and measurement of pharmacokinetic variables such as volumes of distribution, elimination rates, half-lives and areas under the curve

Once you have acquired these items of information you will be able to apply these to specific categories of drugs:

  • Drugs acting on the central nervous system
  • Antimicrobial agents
  • Drugs acting on the female reproductive system
  • Drugs acting on the autonomic nervous system
  • Drugs acting on the respiratory system
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