Pharmacology: How Drugs Work

Subject PHRM20001 (2010)

Note: This is an archived Handbook entry from 2010.

Credit Points: 12.50
Level: 2 (Undergraduate)
Dates & Locations:

This subject has the following teaching availabilities in 2010:

Semester 2, Parkville - Taught on campus.
Pre-teaching Period Start not applicable
Teaching Period not applicable
Assessment Period End not applicable
Last date to Self-Enrol not applicable
Census Date not applicable
Last date to Withdraw without fail not applicable

Timetable can be viewed here. For information about these dates, click here.
Time Commitment: Contact Hours: Lectures, 3x weekly; Tutorials / workshops (1 hr) 6 / semester; Practicals (3hr) 2 / semester (total contact hours: 48)
Total Time Commitment: 120 hours

Students should have successfully completed level 1 subjects in Chemistry AND Biology (combined value of 37.5 points).

Students wishing to undertake this subject as breadth will need the approval of the subject co-ordinator.

Corequisites: None
Recommended Background Knowledge: None
Non Allowed Subjects: This subject cannot be taken if credit has been previously obtained for 534-201 Fundamentals of Pharmacology.
Core Participation Requirements: It is University policy to take all reasonable steps to minimise the impact of disability upon academic study and reasonable steps will be made to enhance a student’s participation in the University’s programs.
This subject requires all students to actively and safely participate in laboratory activities. Students who feel their disability may impact upon their participation are encouraged to discuss this with the subject coordinator and the Disability Liaison Unit:


Dr Graham Mackay, Dr Jane Bourke


Dr Graham MacKay:

Dr Jane Bourke:

Administrative Coordinator:

Ms Hong Nguyen

Subject Overview: Pharmacology is an exciting discipline that provides insight into the actions of drugs in the body by integrating knowledge from a range of biosciences including how the body works in health and disease. This subject uses specific examples of familiar and newly developed drugs to demonstrate how pharmacologists identify drug targets, design and test therapeutic effectiveness, and gain an understanding of mechanisms of action and side effects of drugs.
  • To provide an understanding of the basic principles of drug action, this subject focuses on receptor sites that mediate drug action and the physiological and biochemical mechanisms associated with the response to a drug. In addition, the subject investigates the ways in which drugs are handled by the body in terms of their absorption, distribution and metabolism.The activity of hormones and drugs, including commonly used therapeutic agents for cancer, hypertension, asthma and depression are utilised to illustrate these principles. The subject also examines the development of new drugs from natural sources or new chemical syntheses and how these drugs are evaluated and regulated. Aspects of drugs of abuse and addiction and the potential strategies for dealing with this problem are explored. The principles of selective toxicity, the toxicology of environmental contaminants and aspects of venoms and toxins are also examined.
  • The practical course is provided to reinforce the lecture material, and to give hands-on experience in experiments that illustrate the basic concepts of the pharmacological concentration-response relationship, competitive antagonism and pharmacodynamic and pharmacokinetic principles.

  • Continuing assessment of practical and computer-aided learning work during the semester (20%).
  • Mid-semester assessment (20%).
  • A 2-hour written examination in the examination period (60%).

Prescribed Texts: Course manual (provided)
Recommended Texts:

Although there are no prescribed textbooks for Pharmacology the following textbooks are recommended. All are available in the Brownless library.

Howland: Pharmacology, 3rd edition. Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins

Rang, Dale and Ritter, Pharmacology, 6th edition. Churchill Livingstone

Katzung, Basic and Clinical Pharmacology, 10th edition. Appleton and Lange

Golan, Principles of Pharmacology, (2nd edition). Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins.

Neal, Medical Pharmacology at a Glance (5th edition). Blackwell. (revision purposes)

Breadth Options:

This subject potentially can be taken as a breadth subject component for the following courses:

You should visit learn more about breadth subjects and read the breadth requirements for your degree, and should discuss your choice with your student adviser, before deciding on your subjects.

Fees Information: Subject EFTSL, Level, Discipline & Census Date
Generic Skills: By the end of this subject students should have:
  • an understanding of the scientific basis of the action of the drugs
and developed skills in
  • experimental design and techniques
  • use of information technology resources for data analysis and interpretation.
  • critical thinking and problem solving
  • effective participation in small group work

This subject is available to students enrolled in the BSc, Biomedicine degree.

Special requirements: laboratory coat.

Experiments involving the use of animals are an essential part of this subject; exemption is not possible.

Related Course(s): Bachelor of Science
Graduate Diploma in Biotechnology

Download PDF version.