Pharmacology is a major subject of medical sciences. Unlike other subjects, it is concerned with “the drug inside the body.”
By definition, it is the study of pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic aspects of the drug.
In simple words, it is the study of what a drug does to the body and what the body does to the drug.
Upon completing this subject, you will be aware of how the drug is administered, its action, metabolism, excretion, side effects, etc.
The pharmacology course is taught in the school of medicine, nursing and pharmacy courses. It is also included in veterinary and physiotherapy courses.
Further, students with basic science can study it during their master’s degree and doctoral degrees.
Pharmacology course outline
The course covers general pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, clinical toxicity, pharmacometrics, pharmacogenetics, etc.
This covers basic pharmacological aspects like
This is the first aspect of pharmacology, as one needs to know how a drug is made. From where it is obtained and how it is tested for use on humans for the said disease condition.
In the drug discovery process, one is exposed to different methods used in drug discovery, identification, selection, and route of administration.
Routes of medicament administration
A drug is given to a patient through many routes like oral method, skin application, injections, etc.
The routes are decided based on many factors like drug solubility, clinical requirements, the age of the patient, cost factors, etc.
The routes are different for babies, older people, unconscious persons, etc.
Once the drug is developed, the next aspect will be to find which routes will be suitable for administration.
Also, read more details about routes of medicament administration.
This deals with absorption, distribution, metabolism (degradation), and excretion of the drug in the body.
This explains how a drug can be administered to the body for therapeutic effect.
A drug can be given as a tablet, syrup, or injection such that it reaches the bloodstream (systemic circulation).
It can also be given by the topical route such that the drug produces its effect at a particular spot in the body.
The subject describes the factors that affect the absorption of the drug.
So, it helps the medical expert to decide on how to administer the drug
Once the drug is administered, it goes for distribution. This means the drug tries to reach different parts of the body.
This is possible by distribution by blood or other methods. This distribution is essential to expose the drug at the site of action.
Some drugs need whole-body distribution while others are given for local effects.
Once the drug is distributed to different parts of the body, it shows its effect. However, after a certain period of time, it has to be removed from the body to avoid toxicity.
Metabolism is the process that converts the active drug into an inactive form. It also alters the drug chemistry such that it becomes water-soluble and is ready to be expelled out of the body.
This metabolism occurs mostly in the liver. The deals degraded safely to make it less potent, less toxic, and easy to be removed from the body.
This deals with the expulsion of the drug content out of the body.
It involves various organs of the excretion system. The drug is expelled by many routes like the kidneys, intestine, skin (sweat), saliva, lungs, etc.
It also describes how the process of excretion affects drug action and toxicity in the body.
This part of pharmacology deals with how the drug behaves in the body.
It describes the method of action of drugs, receptors and bio-molecules involved in providing the therapeutic effect.
Not all drugs act inside the body in a similar fashion. Every class of drugs has its definite mode to produce an effect on the body.
Pharmacology of individual organ systems
Therapeutics intervention is done concerning a particular body system. Hence pharmacology of individual systems is studied in detail. This includes drugs acting on.
i) Central nervous system: Here, the drugs acting on the central nervous system like general anesthetics, analgesics, local anesthetics. Antiepileptics, antiparkinson, Alzheimer’s drugs are covered.
ii) Autonomous nervous system. This covers the drugs acting on the adrenergic and cholinergic systems of the body.
iii) Respiratory system. This covers the pharmacology of drugs used in treating cough, phlegm, asthma, COPD, etc.
iv) Cardiovascular system. Drugs used in the treatment of cardiac arrhythmias, heart failure, angina pectoris and myocardial infarction are described.
v) Gastrointestinal drugs: The drugs acting on the gut like vomiting, acidity, constipation, diarrhea are covered in detail.
vi) Drugs acting on the kidney. Here diuretics and antidiuretics are dealt with.
vii) Blood and related disorders. Drugs useful in the treatment of anemia, hemophilia is explained.
viii) Hormones and autocoids. Anti-diabetic, anti-thyroid and other drugs used in the treatment of hormones related diseases are covered.
ix) Anti-microbial and chemotherapy. Drugs like antibiotics, antiprotozoal, antifungal, anti-viral, anti-cancer drugs are covered.
x) Immune enhancers and suppressant drugs. Drugs related to immunosuppression and immune modulation are explained.
All the classes of drugs are studied in terms of their classification; pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics, toxicity, adverse effects are covered.
Besides the above, pharmacology also covers bioassays, toxicology basics.
This deals with calculating the dose of the drug and the number of doses required to produce the desired effect.
Naturally, an adult requires a different concentration of drugs than that of a child.
So, the doses are fixed based on the surface area or weight of the body. In general, an average adult dose is calculated or 70kg man in the most dosage forms.
It also helps to understand how to determine the required dose, number of dosings needed for better therapeutic results.
Toxicology & side effects.
Here the poisonous effect of the drug on the body and its management is covered. It describes the toxicity produced by medicine in the body regarding side effects or other impairment. It helps to understand how toxicity varies based on dose, duration of the drug inside the body, the extent of toxicity due to distribution, etc. On studying it, one will know how to use the drug without toxic effects.
Further, the drug source, its chemistry, properties, and other related aspects are also covered.
Pharmacology also has branches like Clinical toxicology, medical pharmacology, psychopharmacology, neuropharmacology, etc., based on the area of drug usage.
Pharmacology course requirements
This course is offered at the graduation level and higher in most universities. So for those willing to take up the course they need to
- Have taken up biology-related course till Junior, senior grade and even in under graduation.
- Also must take up medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, nursing, or veterinary as they teach pharmacology as a part of the syllabus.
- Ability to work on laboratory animals and even on human subjects. healthcare
- Sound knowledge of human anatomy, physiology, and pathophysiology. This knowledge helps one to understand the problem of disease and how to intervene to provide treatment with medicine.
- Have standard pharmacology books.
Pharmacology course duration
The course is taught on an annual basis and also on a semester basis based on the university.
But, as per my experience in teaching the course, a two-year duration is fine. If not, at least 3 semesters are required.
Online pharmacology course
Since the course includes practical experiments, it was not easy for one to take up online pharmacology courses till the recent past. But with improvement in technology and simulation lab experiments, it is quite easy for one to take up the online format of course.
Here one is given audio, the video format of teaching, along with suitable notes. One can even perform lab experiments on a computer by using simulation software meant for the purpose. If you cannot attend a full-time course, it would be wiser to complete the course online.